Saturday, January 6, 2018

Guilt and punishment or love and correction?

The second principle of Unitarian Universalism is "justice, equity, and compassion in human relations." On the surface, this covenantal agreement to affirm and promote these three things seems reasonable and desirable and yet in our society and daily interactions we rarely behave as if we genuinely believed these things. Our whole society, corporations, schools is based on retributive justice based on the Code of Hammurabi, "an eye for an eye."

Do you believe in guilt? Do you believe that human beings are inherently defective, inadequate, and prone to sin for which they should be punished to teach the offender a lesson as well as all others who would be deterred from similar sins and crimes by seeing a brother or sister punished?

The law here is simple: if you believe in guilt and punishment you, yourself, will be found guilty and punished. Most of us deal with this fear of being found guilty and punished by telling ourselves that we are not like the offender. Somehow we are different. Some of us more humble will say to ourselves as we find guilt assigned and punishment perpetrated, "There but for the grace of god go I."

It is said that we reap what we sow. The law of karma, simply stated, is, what goes around comes around. When we believe in guilt and punishment we are making our bed and we will have to lie in it.

Is this the world we want to believe in? Do we want to continue to believe in the original sin which makes all human beings innately damaged goods from their births? This belief has consequences, consequences which we have not seen and deep down do not want and if we can get past our fears, we come to know are not true.

The Children of God cannot sin. Make mistakes, yes, but sin? No. God, our creator, does not condemn us and certainly does not punish us. We do that to ourselves. So, the question becomes, do we want to follow the path of the ego and  condemn and punish, or the path of the spirit and correct and teach? Is there a better way? Yes, of course. Is punishment the path to peace and healing or is it love and deep understanding? Compassion and forgiveness?


  1. The idea of sin and punishment as done great harm to humanity. It fosters and reinforces the belief in separation instead of unity. We have to decide what we want condemnation, guilt, and punishment or understanding, forgiveness and healing. It's pretty simple actually.

  2. Jennifer DombrowskiJanuary 6, 2018 at 1:13 PM

    The point about punishement and healing is the difference in outcomes between retributive and restorative justice. Retributive justice is about separation, stigma, alienation, and disfranchisement while restorative justice is about re-unification, compassion, engagement, and restoration, accountably, to the community. The first is the path of the curse, and the second is the path of mercy and grace.

  3. The path of improved health, happiness, and social functioning is in the direction of enhanced restorative justice activities rather than retributive justice activities. It would be to the advantage of the living tradition of Unitarian Universalism if it is to actually apply its principles to engage in restorative justice activities.


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