When our oldest children were little, Sir Knight and I participated in a bible study aimed at helping young parents wade through the early years of parenthood. One of the key principles that stuck with me was the principle of Natural Consequences. Basically, natural consequences were the end result of poor, rebellious or disobedient behavior. We never disciplined our children after they had suffered natural consequences - their suffering was usually more than enough punishment to get them back on track. Only when our children didn't encounter natural consequences were we compelled to enforce alternate consequences. It was a really good system. Our children learned through experience and generally didn't make the same mistake twice (well, most of the time anyway!).
Our society has experienced the death of natural consequences. In our quest to tolerate all behavior, whether beneficial or not, we have erased natural consequences. It used to be that if you soiled a young ladies honor, you had a shotgun wedding. If you broke into a man's home, you were shot. If you didn't hold down a job, you didn't eat. You get the picture. There were consequences for your behavior. You knew the rules of society and you chose to obey them....or not. But you knew if you didn't live according to the laws of the land your life would be on the line, or at the very least your reputation.
We no longer have such natural consequences. Now, if you soil a young ladies honor, you can just live with her until you find a new honey. The State will pay the medical bills to deliver your baby. The State will issue WIC checks and food stamps and take over what is supposed to be your responsibility. Now, if you break into a man's home, not only will he face repercussions if he shoots you, but you could sue him for injuring yourself on his property during your break-in attempt! Now, if you don't feel the need to hold down a steady job, you can just tell the government and they will provide for your needs. Now, there are no consequences for poor behavior, just encouragement and incentives.
And, in a feel-good, liberal society, our reversal of fortunes is complete. Good has become bad and bad has become good. We can't expect unmarried parents to provide for their own children - they simply don't have the means. We can't protect our own homes and lives with deadly force - those poor people wouldn't be stealing if society had treated them better. In these hard economic times, how can we expect anyone to hold down a job? Scrubbing toilets, digging ditches or holding down more than one job to support yourself? Well, that's just demeaning - especially when you can make more on food stamps and unemployment. Anyone who tells you different - well, they just want to starve the children, the elderly and all of those other "at risk" folks. Heartless cruelty, I tell you!
Are we proud of ourselves? We have effectively taken away the consequences for the multitudes. We are supporting those that consistently make poor decisions and in order to do that, we are taking from those that consistently make responsible decisions. Can you imagine doing that with your children? One child breaks his bike again and again, going over the same jump that you told him not to go over, so you take the bike from your other child (a bike that he has cared for meticulously) and give it to the rebel? Seriously? If that's the case - you are a bad parent. Really.
Society needs natural consequences if it is going to prosper. Without them, society ceases to function in any cohesive way. When natural consequences are removed, society becomes a bubbling cauldron of chaos. And that is no way to live. We, our children and our nation needs natural consequences. We need to get out of the way and allow people to experience the consequences of poor decisions, only then will be begin to make our way of the pit we have dug for ourselves.