Articles are available for reprint as long as the author is acknowledged: Domenick J. Maglio Ph.D.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Lack of Punishment Results in Dishonor

America is becoming a weak nation. There is no longer agreement on what is right or wrong or decent. This confusion has lowered our ability to establish and maintain high standards. People are not sure what is expected of them anymore.

We see the effects on the disintegration of our moral values in all aspects of our lives. Our society is producing weak and overindulgent parents. Our schools are inflating grades and do not give consequences for inappropriate behavior. Corporations are providing poor customer service and producing inferior products. There is no institution in the United States that is sending a strong and clear message of what it takes to become excellent in any role.

Our politicians are not being held accountable for the most flagrant incompetence and disgraceful behavior imaginable. There are few honorable people willing to risk their positions to lead us back to being an exceptional nation. Citizens are beside themselves attempting to comprehend what is happening to our country.

The answer is simple. Who rocks the cradle, controls the nation. When a nation does not emphatically teach moral values to the children everyone does his 'own thing.' Without a moral compass, any deviant actions can be and is rationalized. Pathetically we are perfecting the art of not taking responsibility at an early age, which continues throughout adulthood.

When a young child hurts another child the major consequence today is being made to say 'I'm sorry.' Everything is forgiven and forgotten. There is no sufficient punishment to give enough pain to learn a moral lesson. The actual lesson learned is that 'after I get caught as long as I act contrite, I can do anything I want.'

The opposite is true of a strong parental figure that clearly establishes parameters through appropriate consequences. Children respond positively to strong parents and listen to them. Employees listen to the man in charge who sets the rules and enforces them and follows them himself. They respond by meeting the boss's expectations or face his wrath. The employee looks over his shoulder to see if he is satisfying the boss. In the same manner the child looks to his parents to see if he is meeting their expectations.

The person in charge confirms he has the authority and power every time he metes out consequences by promotions or salary increases or by demoting or firing an employee. External discipline breeds internal discipline for people of any age. This is the reason all healthy people want to know where they stand. Children want discipline because then they know their parents care. Dedicated workers feel more appreciated and safer in an environment where they know the expectations and standards on which they will be judged. Authority figures are slacking in this area.

Political leaders are poor role models when they are not telling the truth or enforcing the same rules for everyone. They say one thing and do the opposite. Lying is so prevalent that we joke, "what can we expect, they're politicians?"

These mixed messages are allowed because we, the citizens are not holding them responsible by firing them through the ballot box. Like parents who refuse to punish their children, politicians believe they are entitled to be revered. Citizens like children are becoming cynical and disrespectful of authority figures.

President Obama's press conference about the security lapses of the underwear bomber was a virtuoso performance of double talk. According to him it was a systemic problem but he did not define the specifics, take responsibility for the fiasco or say how he would fix it. This meant no one including himself would be punished for not performing his duty.

The inability to say what he means and mean what he says creates a muddled message. After the investigation of this incident the administration made no operational changes and did not fire anyone. The tone set was business as usual: sloppy and corrupt. This means everyone is secure in his position and no one is in charge.

Under pressure it is easy to place the blame anywhere rather than making the right decision. There is a big difference between throwing an innocent person under the bus and exonerating a guilty one. An honorable civil servant of the president, if wrong, should not wait for a presidential decision. He would admit his mistake and resign to save the president from any embarrassment. No one has yet done so.

Our lack of respecting right and wrong has weakened the quality of our performance and ability to know the honorable thing to do. 'Falling on one's sword' in this society is incomprehensible for there is nothing more important than protecting oneself.

Dishonor becomes commonplace in a culture that promotes arrogance and getting ahead by any means. Tragically this weakens the entire society.

Our duty as citizens is voting. When we do not study and know a representative's record we are being as delinquent as an appeasing parent or boss. It is time for honorable people to fulfill their responsibility to support the conscientious servant or kick the bums out. Honor will be served.

Dr. Maglio is the author of Invasion Within and Essential Parenting. He is a psychotherapist and the owner/director of Wider Horizons School. Visit:

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