The Criminal's Belief System

“He Only Got What He Deserved.”

Offenders make moral judgments about their own behavior and often rationalize their conduct to "neutralize" what would otherwise be incapacitating feelings of guilt or shame. For example, if they cause physical harm to someone, they may make such excuses as: "He deserved it," "I only slapped her," “He had it coming,” “He brought it on himself,” She was just asking for it.”

This excuse may even be a maxim by which they live, to justify angry outbursts when they settle matters with their fists … or a knife … or a gun.  Such a person may appear to be out of control, but they are often using their anger quite purposefully, to remind other people that it is dangerous to cross them.  In other words, such actions may be intended to control others.

By contrast, both Christians and morally sensitive non-Christians have trouble with the word "deserve." This is why the grading system in schools today is in a shambles. There is a growing reluctance to reward good work with good grades and bad work with bad grades. Teachers and principals try to avoid saying, "Johnny deserved to fail."

Regarding salaries, there is an aversion to the idea of paying people differently according to the merit of their work. They simply can't say, "Employee A deserves more money than employee B because his work is better." They pay by seniority or job title, routinely give a cost-of-living raise about once a year, but seldom give raises based on the quality of the job being done.

We no longer have penal institutions. Instead we call them correctional institutions. This implies that we no longer punish our criminals; we re-educate them. No one wants to ask, "What does a thief deserve?" We would rather ask, "How can we reshape his thinking so that he doesn't do that again?"

Whether you live by the word “deserve,” as do violent criminals or abusive spouses, or if you avoid that word altogether - the Biblical truth is, those of us who are believers in Jesus Christ, and His finished work on the cross, will never get what we “deserve.” If we have ever sinned, our just fate is eternal damnation.  But by grace, through faith, we have been forgiven and will enjoy eternal life in heaven.

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