Today I was thinking about discipline and punishment. And I was wondering, "What is the most 'Christian' way to discipline/punish?"
It made me think back to situations in my life that truly changed me. Because isn't that what discipline is, and punishment meant to do? Changing someone from what they are right now, to how they ought to be?
My first memory of this happening was when I was about eight. And oddly enough, I didn't remember this until my dad told me the story of it happening.
He had come home to find my mom beside herself angry at me. I had, apparently, taken two quarters off of the table without asking, and without letting anyone know that I had done it. My dad looked at my mom, and without saying anything walked back to my bedroom where I was waiting for impending doom. (Remember that feeling?) He walked into my room, sat down beside me on the bed, reached down into his pocket, and pulled out four quarters.
"If you need money, you just have to ask."
That was all it took to send me into an all out bawl. I had never felt so bad about having done something. I cried and cried and cried.
And I was changed.
It hadn't taken screaming, time out, spanking, grounding, yelling.
I remember another time in high school, when I had fallen into a horrible habit of not turning in my homework. Looking back, I think I wanted attention. My mom was working all day and going to school at night, and my dad lived in another state. It was me and my younger sister by ourselves most of the time. And even when my mom was home, she was tired. And studying. And doing her own homework.
It was the beginning of a new school year, and a new teacher had been hired. Her name was Mrs. Lester, and she taught English. I remember her calling me to her desk one day as class was dismissed.
"I can't seem to find your paper."
I panicked. I loved Mrs Lester. I had started babysitting for her and we had started forming a friendship (as much as that is possible between student and teacher.)
"I didn't do it."
"Really? That just doesn't seem like you."
That was all it took. Hmm. She had no clue of my "prior history". That it was the norm for me to turn in assignments late, if at all. (In fact once I got a D in Science strictly because I didn't do any homework.)
It was all it took to open my eyes to the fact that it wasn't 'too late.' I could change and that wouldn't be who I was anymore.
OK. Situation number three.
I'm in college. Again with the not turning in homework bit. (I guess that wasn't the lesson I learned with Mrs. Lester :) )
It was Mrs Williams class. English again. Didn't do my paper. She asks me for it and her when I say I'm sorry I'll have it tomorrow, her answer will change the way I make decisions in every relationship that I have from here on out.
"That's ok. I like to err on the side of grace."
And just like that, I realized. You don't have to be strict. You don't have to be stern. You don't have to give a consequence, even when it is deserved.
Isn't that what Jesus taught, and isn't that how he treats us? Sometimes consequences are needed, but sometimes, sometimes, it is OK to let something go.
What side do you want to err on?