“I believe in second chances. I’m not sure everyone deserves one”
Therein lies the dilemma. I want to believe that everyone should have a second chance to do the right thing or to change an action or an event that happened as the result of a regrettable impulsive decision. But then how do second chances get meted out? Who decides who gets that chance and who doesn’t? Based on what? Does it matter the severity of the event? Are there degrees to consider? I’m a black and white thinker most of the time. I’m not saying that is a good thing or not but that’s who I am. I agree that it is not always the best way to be nor is it always the most fair way to be but it is how I see the world I live in. I try to be as fair and as unbiased as I can be but that isn’t always possible or enough.
How do you do things when it comes to second chances? What criteria do you use? What standards do you employ? Would you want to be treated as you treat others-by the same measures?
Here are a few scenarios to consider and I would appreciate hearing your thoughts and comments about what you would do-second chance or not: (Remember this is about giving someone another chance to right a wrong. It is not about what is fair according to your idea of right or wrong)
1. John Doe murders someone in a rage because the victim was thought to have sexually assaulted his child. He says he’s really sorry for what he has done and should have let the law do it’s duty but the anger and outrage took him over and he lost it. He asked for a dramatically reduced sentence with the promise of never doing that again. He didn’t have a record of violent behaviour. He had no legal involvement at all. John Doe was a model citizen. (It later turned out that the person who died didn’t do what he was accused of doing but that was not known at the time.) Does he deserve another chance to live his life with some purpose? Wouldn’t most respond as he did because it involved his child?
2.You hear of someone who beats his/her partner because they got drunk and angry about something they did and as a result of the beating inflicted serious head injuries and permanent damage. The person who did the beating pledges to get help with the drinking problem and given another chance will dedicate his/her life to helping others who have similar problems. His/Her point was no one knows a drunk like another drunk and he/she could help others. He/she was impaired and not responsible-right?
3. A man is caught breaking into your home in the middle of the night. You later find out that the burglar was an unemployed man who had just been cut off his benefits and had a young family to support with no means to do so. However, he didn’t get to take anything and was very remorseful and stated that he would never do that again. Does the court punish him or should the court let him off with a warning and community service?
4. How about the politician who gets caught using his/her power and position to, fraudulently, access public funds for personal gain. He’d been a faithful and dedicated public servant for a lengthy time and had a spotless record of public service. He was not only apologetic for his actions but wanted to run again and promised to donate half his salary to a local charity. His riding could really benefit from his experience and the charity could help more people in need.
5. What about the smoker who has to have a lung replaced because it is cancerous and life threatening. He had learned about the dangers of smoking from his doctor and knew it in plenty of time to avoid the eventual need for a transplant. He vowed to cut down his smoking but would not commit to quitting altogether. Does he get the operation?
6. How about the father who walked away from his family for a variety of reasons but was seen as someone who was a ‘dead beat’ dad. He was not able to pay what the court suggested he had to pay for support and therefore was banned from seeing his son until he made restitution. He found that the grass wasn’t greener and wanted to come back and try to rebuild his damaged relationship with his child but was forbidden to do so by the other parent. Should he have the right to be involved again? Hey he left once–he’ll probably run again when he gets the chance. He made his choice that’s it.
These are but a few of the scenarios that we are faced with most days as a community. They are often managed with inconsistency which creates an on-going under the surface resentment and anger among citizens. Anger and resentments mostly come from a feeling or a sense of injustice so perhaps when our systems find a way to be more consistent and fair we will experience less stress and violence in our everyday living.
So what is fair? Who gets to enjoy a second chance at turning their life around? Based on what? A big part of me wants to revert to that black and white thinking and say sorry for what is going on for you but the law is the law and there are no second chances. Would these folks have felt the same had they not been caught or otherwise held accountable for their actions–likely not. If there is no consequence for our actions then what do we learn? SHould another chance be tied to the amount of money one has?
This would be a great exercise to do with your children so that fairness and consistency could be highlighted. A great ‘teachable’ moment. Would you treat your kids the same way as you would treat the strangers outlined in the scenarios or would they ‘deserve’ different treatment. What makes it right for yours but not right for others?
Anyways, that’s how I see it, Jim
Please send along your thoughts and comments on what you would do–would you grant second chances or not and why?
I look forward to hearing back from you.