As someone who teaches teenagers, I’ve noticed over the years that one of the most telling signs of maturing is the ability to accept Consequences.
Probably because most of us, until the age of 15 or 16, are served consequences in the form of punishment (meted out by parents in an attempt to spare us real-world consequences), it takes time for us to learn to recognize the difference between the two.
As a result: Life is unfair. We blame our parents.
Where I teach, we mark absences each day. Somehow the system has evolved so that students can petition to have absences removed from their record. I find this whole concept baffling. Whether a student was present that day is no longer a matter of fact, but an indication of the student’s character. If they have a good excuse, history will report a falsehood so that they aren’t “punished”. Present or absent no longer reflects the information we might assume the words do. The argument is that if a student is in the hospital for a week, they don’t need to be “doubly punished” for their illness.
Life is unfair. We blame the system. Or beg the system to rewrite facts, instead of widening perspectives.
Life is unfair. Blame God. Or abandon your god. Because even when we, on the surface, begin to discern consequence from punishment, we still find it difficult to disassociate shame from a negative consequence.
Perhaps I should speak for myself: Most of the time I think I have this figured out.
I make choices. Sometimes with risks. And when the consequences are not ideal, I do know God is not punishing me. I know that.
So why then, still, these accompanying feelings of shame?
Still learning. And unlearning, in the face of facts.