Analysis: BONIFACE SUSA
MANY people define punishment as a penalty meted out against a person who has committed a crime or exhibited inappropriate behaviour.
Applying this definition means that the punisher not only intends to end the undesirable behaviour but also seeks retribution and hurt to the wrongdoer. Punishment is therefore a veritable deterrent to a particular action or behaviour that is deemed unacceptable.
No one dares to be punished because punishment brings pain to the wrongdoer. A person who has been punished for wrongdoing will experience physical, emotional and mental distress. A practical example is an individual who has been convicted of committing a crime and sent to jail. He will suffer physical pain due to hard labour and some of his rights and freedoms will legally be curtailed while in prison. At the onset, punishment creates a bad relationship between the punisher and the wrongdoer. A child will fear a parent who uses a whipping stick to correct a bad behaviour in him. Naturally, the child would be comfortable with a parent who is more tolerant of his misdemeanour. Unruly pupils will call a class teacher unprintable names for punishing them. In the same vein, an employee will deeply loathe a supervisor who metes out punishment against him. A disgruntled worker may even reach the extent of using witchcraft to harm the unsuspecting supervisor to avenge the punishment.
Punishment dates back to biblical times. God punished Adam and Eve for eating the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden. To the woman God said: “I shall greatly increase the pain of your pregnancy and in birth pangs you will bring forth the children and your craving will be for your husband, and he will dominate you.” And to the man He said: “Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree I commanded you not to eat from it, cursed is the ground on your account. In pain you will eat its produce all the days of your life. And it will grow thorns and thistles for you. In the sweat of your face, you will eat bread until you return to the ground from where you were taken. For dust you are and to dust you will return”- Genesis 3:16-19.
The children of Israel faced the wrath of God when they disobeyed Him. Jehovah sent poisonous snakes among the people and they kept biting them so that many people of Israel died. God removed the snakes when they admitted their wrongdoing and asked for forgiveness – Numbers 21:1-9.
In Acts chapter 9, before his conversion, Apostle Paul was one of the most ruthless people who persecuted Christians. He went to the high Priest and asked for letters of introduction to the synagogues so that if he found followers of Jesus Christ, he would be able to arrest them, both men and women. But on his way to Damascus on a similar mission, God punished him for subjecting Christians to cruel persecution which included killing them. He was blind for three days, and during that period he neither ate nor drank anything.
The story of Apostle Paul is completely remarkable because after regaining his sight, he became an ardent follower of Christ. He was immediately transformed into a good person. He became a friend and not an enemy of God. He travelled far and wide spreading the word of God. Paul wrote most of the letters or epistles in the New Testament in which he encouraged the early Christians to follow the true gospel of God. He was imprisoned on several occasions but never renounced his faith in God. Without punishment, Paul could have continued persecuting Christians and neither was he going to be an apostle.
It is true some people change their behaviour after facing the consequences of their actions. But there are benefits if one is punished for doing wrong things or breaking the law. Punishment, though painful, allows an individual to make correct decisions to avoid falling in the same trap in future. Generally, punishment shapes the character of an offender. If a worker is punished for wrongdoing, he will learn from his mistakes and become a productive worker. An individual who experienced some form of retribution will warn other people about the dire outcome of erroneous behaviour. We have ex-prisoners who are changing the lives of many people as men of God. Some ex-convicts are no longer criminals but successful entrepreneurs who have created employment and contribute to the country’s economic growth. The PF government deserves praise for turning prisons into correctional facilities.
Both parents and a child can derive certain benefits for punishing their child. Parents can use punishment to learn what the child is feeling or want so that correct behaviour can be taught. This turns punishment into an opportunity to learn about causes of bad behaviour as well as develop solutions to eliminate such behaviour in future. On the other hand, a child will reap the benefits of punishment when he grows into a responsible person. Don’t spare the rod and spoil the child.
Punishment in schools helps teachers to manage their classrooms in a way that creates an effective learning environment. Teachers who use fair punishment techniques actually encourage pupils to respect the authority and their class peers. And pupils who witness or experience classroom punishment may develop an understanding of what it means to respect authority and follow the school rules accordingly.
However, punishment can be avoided if an individual is obedient, honest, loyal and has respect for authority at all times. It is imperative for someone who has done something wrong to apologise or ask for forgiveness. In Bemba, it is said, “Ukuboko bapota ukukosele”, meaning that: only a hard arm can be twisted. This is why a judge or magistrate usually asks an accused person to say something in mitigation before he passes judgment so that lesser punishment can be served on the offender who has shown remorse. When you are wrong, it is better to apologise or ask for forgiveness from people whom you have offended.
The author is station manager, Mkushi Community Radio.