You are currently viewing Crime and punishment

Crime and punishment


”If thoughts could kill, how many of you would still be alive? I would remind you: the seeds of all actions are to be found in your thoughts. “If you think, I can’t stand so and so,” you are attacking him.

What begins as thought quickly becomes speech. If you slander this person in front of others or plot behind his back, you are attacking him. What becomes speech quickly becomes action. If your words inflame others who support you in your attack, you may feel justified when you beat this man or even kill him.

Society says: ‘only the physical action is reprehensible.Verbal attacks are unfortunate, but inevitable. And, no one would be foolish enough to try to hold another accountable for his thoughts.” And so you are outraged by the act of murder, but the thought of murder is acceptable. You have all had it. You are outraged by the act of rape or sexual abuse, yet you are not greatly disturbed by the thought of it.

I ask you to remember that everything that you think about, say or do to another person reflects back to you what you think about yourself. A negative thought about someone else demonstrates how you see yourself.

Gossip about another or verbal abuse indicate your own feelings of shame and emotional rejection. And physical violence toward another indicates your own suicidal impulse.

This is no mystery. Only one who is hurting strikes out against others. And I ask you, how many of you are not hurting? How many of you are not striking out in little ways against others?

The difference between you and the one who rapes and murders is not as big as you think. I do not say this to make you feel bad. I say this to help you wake up to your responsibility to your brother.

If you can forgive yourself for having thoughts of revenge, why can’t you forgive the man or woman who acts with vengeance? This person merely acts out what you have thought about.

I am not justifying the act of vengeance. I cannot justify any attack, and I am not suggesting that you do. I am simply asking you why do you cast this brother out of your heart. He is perhaps even more desperate for love and forgiveness than you are. Would you withhold it from him? Your brother has been wounded deeply. He has grown up without a father. He has been addicted to drugs since he was nine years old. And he has lived in a project where he has never felt safe. Do you not feel some compassion for the wounded boy in the man who commits the crime? If you were to step into his shoes, would you do that much better? Be honest, my friend. And in that honesty, you will find compassion, if not for the man, for the boy who became the man.

And I will tell you right now it is not the man who pulls the trigger, but the boy. It is the one who is overwhelmed and scared. It is the little one who does not feel loved and accepted. It is the wounded boy who strikes out, not the man.

My friends, there is no man. There is only the boy. Do not let your sight be distorted by the angry, disdainful face of the man. Beneath that hard exterior is overwhelming pain and self judgment. Beneath the mask of mismanaged manhood and vicious anger is the boy who does not believe he is lovable. If you cannot embrace the boy in him, how can you embrace the boy or the girl in yourself? For his fear and yours are not so different. Let us first take away your mask of moral superiority. And then let the boy or girl in you look out at the boy in him. That is where love and acceptance begin that is where forgiveness has its roots.

Criminals are just one group of untouchables in your society. You do not want to look at their lives. You do not want to hear about their pain. You want to put them away where you do not have to deal with them. You do the same with the elderly, the mentally ill, the homeless, and so forth. You see, my friend, you do not want the responsibility to love your brother. Yet without loving him, you cannot learn to love and accept yourself. Your brother is the key to your salvation. He always was and always will be. Just as the individual denies and represses the negative tendencies he does not want to accept in himself, society denies and institutionalizes the problems it does not want to face. Both the individual and collective unconscious are filled with unspeakable wounds. Behavior at both levels is driven by the unacknowledged pain, guilt and fear embedded in these wounds.

Forgiveness brings a searchlight into these dark secret places in self and society. It says to your own guilt and fear “come out and be seen. I need to understand you.” And it says to the criminal “come out, meet the victims of your crime, make amends, begin the process of healing.”

Acknowledging the wound is always the first step in the healing process. If you are not willing to face the fear behind the wound, individually and collectively, the healing process cannot begin. It is hard for you to look at your own repressed pain. It is hard for society to look at the pain of its outcasts. But this must be done.

Everybody lives in a prison of reactivity until the wound is made conscious. It is not just the criminal who is behind bars. The men and women who put him there live behind different bars. If you don’t bring your unconscious material into awareness it will express on its own distorted terms. If you don’t work intentionally with the criminal to help him come to love and accept himself, he will re-enter society with the same anger and vindictiveness.

Building more prisons or putting more police on the streets will not make your neighborhoods safer. These actions just exacerbate the situation by raising the level of fear.

If you want to improve these situations, bring the work of forgiveness into the prisons and the neighborhoods. Hire more teachers and counselors and social workers. Feed people, challenge them emotionally and mentally.

Offer them experiences of safe emotional bonding. Provide them with opportunities for education and training. Give them hope. Give them acceptance. Give them love. This is the work of a peacemaker. This is service. This is embracing your brother as yourself. And, please remember, in giving to others, you will be giving to yourself. Nobody gives love without receiving it. Nobody gives a gift he does not simultaneously receive.

It is time that you stopped trying to punish the sinner in yourself and the criminal in your society. Punishment simply enforces rejection. That is the opposite of what is needed. Feelings of rejection must be mitigated and alleviated. Judgment and attack must be brought into the light of conscious awareness. Guilt and fear must be seen for what they are.

The work of rehabilitation is a work of integration. The darkness must be brought to light. All that is unacceptable must be made acceptable so that we can look at it without fear. The seeds of action must be found in thought, and addressed there. You cannot change actions without changing thoughts. If you make certain thoughts taboo, you will be afraid to look at them. This is not constructive. Be willing to look at the murderous thoughts in the psyche so that you don’t have to bury them in the unconscious.

Help people take responsibility for the thoughts that they think and the effects of those thoughts. Personal power and authentic self esteem begin with the realization that you have a choice about what to think, what to say, and how to act.

Those who strike out at others feel that they have no choice. Those who know they have a choice do not strike out at others.

This is the key. Show a man the choices he has and he will not commit a crime. Crime is another form of self-punishment, unconsciously chosen to address unconscious guilt. The criminal commits a crime because he is still trying to punish himself. And society obliges him, by punishing him and reinforcing his guilt.

The only way out of this vicious cycle is for society to drop the agenda of ostracism and punishment and commit to healing. Every person in pain must be asked to help himself. He must be helped to consciously identify his unworthiness and guilt. And he must be assisted in transforming these negative emotions and beliefs about himself into positive ones.

The lepers of your society are no different then the lepers of my time. They bear everyone’s wounds on their skin. They are bold witnesses to the pain you do not want to deal with. Society should be grateful to them, for they are wayshowers. They point to the path of healing all human beings must take.” 

Source – Love without conditions – Paul Ferrini 

Leave a Reply