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Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Mistake vs. Intentional Act

We had a discussion with our kids about the differences between making a mistake, and intentionally breaking the law.
It seems that in our country, when people get caught in an intentional crime, they say, "I made a mistake." Somehow our language has evolved to using the word "mistake" for "crime".

If you REGRET that you robbed a bank, that is good, but don't say, "I made a mistake!" You didn't accidently walk into the bank, hold a gun up and get money. You did it on purpose! You can say, "I did something really stupid, or evil, or lacked terrible judgement, but PLEASE DON'T say, "I made a mistake".

"I made a mistake" should be used when you don't carry your numbers over correctly in your checkbook and the balance is off.
A mistake is when you buy an outfit you think is nice in the store and when you get it home it looks terrible. A mistake is when you THINK something is a certain way, and later find out it isn't, and you have acted upon erroneous information.

I'm sorry, but Date Raping a woman is NOT a mistake! Killing another person is NOT A MISTAKE!
Call it what it is! EVIL. Say, "I committed a sin". "I committed an evil act!" Or even "I lost control!". But please stop saying, "I made a mistake."

Ok, I'm off my soap box......

But.... before I go, here is what I see is the result of this "I made a mistake" mentality.
There is a blurrr in the lines where people truly DO make mistakes, vs. those who intentionally harm.

For instance, many years ago, if there were a tragedy where there was an accident and somebody lost their life because of it, it was common sense that the punishment of losing the loved one was considered enough. Mercy was shown to individuals who
found themselves in awful predicaments. An example might be: A child accidently left in a car because mother thought father had him and father thought mother had him. (I know a fine family this happened to. Luckily the child was ok, but not far from needing emergency treatment!)
Many years ago, if tragedy had occurred, the parents would have suffered their grief, and that would have been it.
But today, that same parent would be treated harshly and no different than the person who INTENTIONALLY AND CALLOUSLY leaves their child in a car. There is no room anymore in our society for human error. WHY? Because we can no longer seem to distinguish between an honest, tragic accident, and a crime. We can't seem to understand that adding a penalty of prison to a law abiding citizen who would NEVER intentionally hurt a child, is not a deterrent to keep other law abiding citizens who would never hurt a child from making a tragic mistake. We are imperfect beings, and tragedies do happen. They truly ARE mistakes, VERY different from intentional acts and callous behavior.

Recently, a little boy was allowed to drive a boat. There was an accident and his mother was killed. There is an investigation to see who is to blame and possibly file criminal charges. The little boy lost his mother, and most likely, it was his mother who allowed him to drive. She is dead. This little boy will live the rest of his life with the guilt of his mother's death. How tragic, if they investigate more and cause him to lose his father too, or grandmother! (all who were on the boat)

It seems their decision to allow a 7 year old was rather ignorant, but not CRIMINAL. Somehow, we are not distinguishing between criminal intent and just ignorant.

If we aren't careful, we are going to go down the slippery slope of Les' Miserables, where a man can get 20 years hard labor for stealing a loaf of bread because he was starving. And a man can ax murder his gramma and get out in 10 years.

Law must make sense, and lately, it is looking more and more like it doesn't. The new mindset of 0 tolerance, where a child in a school can get kicked out for bringing a plastic knife to cut his chicken and treated with equal harshness along with the child who brings a gun to school to harm others, is becoming the norm.

I'm a little concerned about the future if we stop thinking and check our brains at the door of the legal system.
No, I'm a LOT concerned.

4 comments:

Hevel said...

I'm not 100% sure if the act of letting a 7-year-old drive a boat was not criminal. Many, if not all states do have laws that regulate who can drive motor powered water vehicles, and there definitely is an age limit in many states. Yet I think criminal charges would most likely be cruel.

Unfortunately too many people claim they caused the death or injury of their children unintentionally.

Mike and Christie said...

Hevel, I understand what you are saying. I think what they did was irresponsible. I think however as you do, criminal charges would be cruel.

Annie said...

Oh, you and I are SO on the same page! You just got to this subject before I did - and got both sides of it, too! (Which I confess, I might have missed.) My pet peeve is the misuse of that word "mistake" when "sin" is the right word. How can we expect children to understand the difference between a sin and a mistake when adults use the words incorrectly?

My other pet peeve (which I admit is not quite so blame-worthy) is how we so incorrectly tell children (and adults) that "doing the right thing" FEELS good. It does not always feel good! But, God gave us a brain, and we have the satisfaction of KNOWING that however bad we may feel, we did the RIGHT thing.

The personal example I give is the time a bank teller accidentally gave me $20 too much, at a time when I really needed the money. I doggedly got in line to return the money, and when I finally did so, the girl was RUDE to me! In retrospect, she was probably embarrassed, but none of that felt good! Yet; clearly I did the right thing.

Our society is so caught up with "feelings" (i.e. "if it feels right, do it") that people really do seem to feel justified in their wrongdoing when they say it "felt" good... Some song on the radio a year or two ago kept blaring "How can it be wrong when it feels so right?" And if I got the lyrics right this was justification for cheating on a spouse!

Hevel said...

Can I quote Kevin?

"You robbed a bank,you say you made a mistake. What, you wanted to rob the Subway next door and mixed up the numbers?"

I agree with Annie, doing the right thing often feels anything but good.

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