What is it for?

Punishment is the root of violence on our planet. (Marshall Rosenberg)

We live in a society that uses reward and punishment to control and manipulate people. Rather than basing our relationships on love and respect, we base them on rules. Rules may seem reasonable at first, but then what happens when they are broken? Punishment.

All punishment is violent. In punishment, we feel morally justified in doing harm. We fail to respect a person’s soul and spirit. Now, instead of seeing a beautiful person with limitless potential, we see a problem to be resolved by force. If a little bit of violence doesn’t produce change (it never does), we try a bit more. Go far enough and murder may seem like a reasonable option. Belief that punishment is a legitimate option is the root of all violence, including all war.

Rewards are not much better than punishments. Rewards also look past the person and are only concerned with the mindless manipulation of behavior according to arbitrary rules. Rules, and their inevitable rewards and punishments, are the violent instrument of governments, schools, corporations and all forms of centralized institutions (i.e. “authority”). The lesson is to unquestioningly obey orders.

If this isn’t bad enough, too many of us use reward and punishment in our romantic relationships and family relationships. Most parents practice violence each day, and then wonder why the relationships with their children are broken. Punishment teaches only fear and breaks all relationships.

Furthermore, this faith in violence to produce desired behavior doesn’t work. The soul wants to be free, and so too often rules are broken. Even when behavior is successfully coerced through rules, the quality of doing is poor. Anything done from guilt, fear, shame and desperation is poor, half-hearted, and of no real value. Tomorrow we look at a better way.