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Thursday, October 27, 2022

21. Breaking Through

The Lines

Bottom. [9] The penalty imposed for a first and minor offense should be mild. The purpose of the penalty is not to destroy the wrongdoer, or to make a healthy relationship to society impossible, but to serve as a warning and to provide incentive for the offender to correct his behavior. A young man, prone to following the path of wrongdoing, can be diverted from that path, brought to his senses, and given incentive not to suffer even worse penalties, by being given a mild but real punishment for his first offense. If, on the other hand, he is let off too easily, he will be encouraged to commit additional offenses by the light way he was treated; and if he is dealt with too severely, he will be embittered by the unjust severity and converted into an enemy of the society looking for revenge. Only a skilled judge can determine the exact punishment that is proper for a given offender.

2. [6] When the difference between right and wrong is clear, and a person persists in doing wrong, it is easy to be excessive in meting out punishment. Nevertheless, no great harm is done, since some degree of punishment is surely merited, and the hardened sensibilities of the wrongdoer suggests severe treatment is appropriate.

3. [6] If a man lacks the official authority to correct a wrongdoer, and if the wrongdoer has no respect for him for that reason, the man may feel inadequate for the task and unable to be effective in changing the wrongdoer's behavior. Yet, wrong has been done, and some kind of correction must be imposed, whether it has a corrective effect or not. This might cause difficulty and embarrassment, and the wrongdoer may feel only contempt for the man, but he is justified in proceeding regardless of the awkwardness of the situation. No wrongdoer should be allowed to escape punishment just because he has no respect for the punishing authority.

4. [9] There are times when wrongdoers are powerful men themselves, and in powerful positions. Prosecuting and punishing them presents grave problems, and this places the man up against a formidable opposition. But in spite of the difficulty, a man can succeed against powerful wrongdoers. Their great weakness is that they are in the wrong and deserve to be brought to task for their acts. Nevertheless, this requires that the man be firm in his dealings and inflexible in his pursuit of justice. If he recognizes the difficulties, and faces up to each one of them squarely, he will succeed in the end. Even powerful wrongdoers must be brought to task for their offenses.

5. [6] A situation involving wrongdoing may be clear, but it may still involve great difficulty. It would be easy, because of the complexities, to overlook the extent of the problem and to place limitations on those matters that are being investigated. But that would be a mistake. A person must be thorough, but remain absolutely thorough and fair. He must not pretend to ignore certain aspects of a problem in order to make the task easier, neither should he let a wrongdoer escape responsibility just because the matter is too complicated. The man's responsibility is to be honest, fair, straightforward, and thorough, and that is the only way that he can competently bring the matter to a successful conclusion.

Top. [9] If a man is beyond redemption, if he refuses to modify his behavior, and if no amount of punishments have an effect upon him, then he is truly in an unfortunate state. His wrongdoing has made him an enemy of society, and his obstinacy makes it certain that he will never be reconciled. Such a man will never find a fulfilling destiny. His situation will only grow more desperate with time.

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