By Sarah Evans
When looking at the topic of disciplining our children, it does not take long before the words ‘punishment’
are mentioned. Do these two words mean the same thing, or do they have two distinctive and very different definitions?
This week I would like us to begin thinking about the meaning of these two words, and I would like us to begin asking ourselves how they relate to the method of discipline that we use with our children:
– What forms of punishment and/or consequences are best when attempting to raise our children?
– How can we ensure that our methods of discipline (in regards to punishment and consequences) help, and not hinder, our children in becoming faith-filled and God-loving individuals?
According to www.dictionary.com
, the definition for the word ‘consequence’
is the following:
The accident was the consequence of reckless driving.
- /ˈkɒn sɪˌkwɛns, -kwəns/ The effect, result, or outcome of something occurring earlier:
And the definition on the word ‘punishment’
is the following:
- A penalty inflicted for an offense, fault, and/or severe handling or treatment.
It is important to recognise that these definitions are based on a modern day
understanding of these two words, and so in accordance with this, they appear to be two different ways to learn from our mistakes.
What does the Bible tell us about these two words?
The word punishment is mentioned a lot in the Bible, and it alludes to a time where a person or people had sinned against God. In response to this sin, there were always ‘consequences’
for their actions against God, and it is named in the Bible mostly as a ‘punishment’
. So it would seem that, in the Bible, the word punishment refers to the consequences administered by God as a result of sin. Could this mean that, in accordance with the Bible, the two words have the same meaning?
When God administers punishment (or consequences if you prefer) on His people it is always to highlight the mistake made, the sin, and to teach and guide His people into not making the same mistake again. It is however, done in love.
God’s primary aim is to teach and build His children up, through His unconditional love and acceptance; not to tear His children down and destroy their inner value.
‘Discipline should always point out the sin but never tear down the sinner.’
A good example of this is in the biblical story of the adulterous woman. When the Pharisees were ready to judge and sentence her to death, Jesus addressed her sin in a firm yet compassionate manner. He did not do it in a way that was mean or vindictive. He did not spend lots of time dwelling on her sin, He did not lecture her, and He did not tear her down or trample on her person. He simply said “Go and sin no more” (John 8:1-11)
Take a look at this following statement:
‘It’s ok that our kids feel guilt over their bad decisions, guilt drives us to change. Guilt says: you did something wrong. But shame says: you ARE something wrong. Shame based punishment teaches kids to devalue themselves and their worth.
Publicly humiliating a child is so destructive because most of the time, the world doesn’t let us have the mercy and grace we need to move on from our mistakes.’ (www.praiseandcoffee.com
In these modern times, the word punishment that is used in the Bible is more commonly known as the word consequences. Whichever word we are more comfortable using is not the point, we can call it whatever we want. The important thing for us to remember however is that we are to ensure that our discipline methods are administered in love: both in firmness and with compassion.
When teaching our children about right and wrong, and when guiding them into making better decisions, we must speak and act in a way that will build them up, and not tear them down. We need to look to Jesus, and follow in His example, if we are to be healthy administrators of Godly discipline and love.