Justice (Punishment) vs Mercy (Leniency)

A good HoH knows when to punish and when to guideA few years ago I read a book by Dr. Rushworth Kidder titled How Good People Make Tough Decisions: Resolving the Conflicts of Ethical Living and I have found it very helpful in my role as Head of the Household.

In the beginning of the book Dr. Kidder states, what should be obvious to everyone, that deciding between right and wrong should be simple but points out that the challenge instead comes from trying to make a decision in a “right vs. right” scenario.

He then outlines four of these scenarios: Truth vs Loyalty, Individual vs Community, Short-term vs Long-term, and Justice vs Mercy before discussing different methods for resolving these dilemmas. Finally, he gives examples of how a person may apply these methods to various scenarios they may encounter.

The methods for helping resolve these types of conflicts are Ends-based Thinking, Rules-Based Thinking, and Care-based Thinking.

Ends-based thinking revolves around the principle of what action is best for the largest number of people.

Rules-based thinking revolves around the principle of “Follow the principle that you would want everyone to follow. “

Finally, care-based thinking asks you to put yourself in the other person’s shoes and ask yourself how you would want others to treat you.

Now that I have provided a bit of an overview of the source, I want to discuss the article’s title, Justice vs Mercy and its relationship to domestic discipline. I have found that this paradigm and long-term vs short-term tend to be the most common dilemmas a head of the household may face.

When your wife misbehaves or in some way breaks one of the rules you have set, it should be obvious that she should be punished. After all, there are rules and consequences for breaking them.

People facing the consequences for their behavior is an important part of a well functioning society. If people aren’t accountable for their actions, then society would break down.

But, what if the reason she didn’t get things done was because she got sick during the day? Or what if the reason she broke the rule was she had a panic attack? Surely, you would want others to take such things into account if you were in that situation. So, shouldn’t you be merciful and not punish her and just remind her of her responsibilities and that her behavior was unacceptable?

As you can see there is no one right decision or path. You will find yourself facing this dilemma many times as your relationship continues. Take time to think about how you might handle various scenarios.

I myself always give my wife a chance to explain herself. If the reason she gives me is one I find acceptable justification I will just remind her or give her a lessor punishment. I always make sure to remind her that her behavior was inappropriate and the only reason she isn’t being punished is I find the circumstances explain the behavior well enough.

If the reason is insufficient, she is punished.

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