Do people need to suffer the consequences of their bad behavior?

You know the headlines. You read them and hear them and see them every day.

Someone gets angry at the system and shoots someone or several someones in cold blood, often having planned the act, gathered the necessary firepower and ammunition ahead of time, stalked the victims, checked the schedules and shown up at the right time to do maximum damage.

A family including mother and young children in a van are killed instantly when a drunk driver crosses the line on a highway into the opposite lane, rushing headlong into the hapless victims. He walks away with a bump on the head.

A child is abused over a period of many years, deliberately and in such a way that no one will see the scars being inflicted. Great pains are made to only bruise in places covered by clothing. Emotional abuse leaves no readily observable scars. Sexual abuse injures for life.

A wife is cloistered and her social contacts are limited. She is not allowed to wear makeup. She cannot work. She cannot drive the one car the family owns. If she tries to cultivate friends of her own, male or female, she is ridiculed and called offensive names. She lives at her husband’s whims and has no life of her own. All this in the name of marriage and a husband being the head of the household.

A man drinks and drinks and drinks getting DUI after DUI and losing job after job. He has no place to live and his family has disowned him. He looks you straight in the eye and tells you how someone owes him the help he is not getting. Someone owes him a job. Someone owes him a place to live and a car and happiness. After all, everybody else has this. Why shouldn’t he?

What do we as a society do?

We coddle. We make excuses. We ignore and hope the behaviors go away. We look for scapegoats. We build more cells. We see the problem but we do not like what we see, so we pretend it is not there. We do not hold anyone accountable for anything. The more conservative among us try to explain it away and ignore it, pushing it off to future generations. The more liberal among us try to find ways to fix it and everyone and everything. It cannot be done.

All of us like to feel that we have some control over our world and the things that happen in it. We even like to think we can control the people who give us problems or do not conform to the standards that most of us live by. We need to give up that false sense of control that we’ve never had and never will have.

Sometimes the chips need to fall where they may.

Sometimes people need to suffer the consequences of their bad behavior, bad decision making and bad planning.

People need to be responsible for themselves.

They can do it.

They. Just. Don’t. Want. To.

Wow. What a radical concept.

Greg Smith is a psychiatrist who blogs at gregsmithmd.

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