Righteousness vs rightness: good vs evil?

Being righteous has been a valid expectation and a constant throughout time. However, the meaning of righteousness has certainly been a variable. Contemporary western righteous attitudes may prove to be quite a peculiar custom. Taking as an example contemporary parenting practices, for example. As a mother, I have witnessed an interesting trend to the approach of character building.

Every parent has an understanding of what is right and what is good. When a child does not meet that view, he or she surrenders to friendly fires of a parent's outburst in the name of righteousness. However, the danger here is to overdo on the parental sermon when a good intention turns into an almost evil act through the use of force, anger, shame and punishment: all in the name of proving a parent's personal rightness rather then the universal meaning of righteousness. Enforcing the rules is a good practice only when a child understands what, why and the consequences of any action in respect to a child and the world around him or her. When, however, forcing a child to behave rightly, a parent exemplifies negative and bad behavior through the application of antagonism and resentments, while introducing humiliation in the form of abusive language or punitive actions, not only a child would miss the point of a lesson in righteousness but he or she will most likely only reinforce the wrong outlook out of fear and hate towards the parent’s retribution.

Imagine, on the other hand, when the rules of righteous behavior are applied through a prism of child’s character, age, situation and spring out of a parent’s compassion and desire to guide lovingly. Would not a learn a lesson permanently because this would be a lesson born out of understanding of the wrong done, out of love for a parent and out of a desire to please one’s mother or father. This type of approach, however, requires of a parent much inner work in the form of constant vigilance of the child’s place and space, as well as one’s own responses, attitudes, moods and desires.

An intention to teach righteous attitudes is not enough for the lesson to take place within a child, especially if a parent who is supposed to be setting an example of righteousness exemplifies antagonism, fury and annoyance, rather then exemplifying the righteousness in its true form as love, patience, understanding and compassion. Psychologists have proven through numerous studies that children learn through example set by adults around them. How then parents imploring punitive measures and hateful attitudes may expect their children to learn how to tell right from wrong? In that case, one may say that that type of a parent values not his or her child’s learning of a lesson but to prove his or her own selfish desire to be right. That said, however, this does not imply that a parent must not show a stern side when needed, there is a difference between being kind while being firm or stern and being mean while being angry and punitive.

In the end, how can we expect the world to be kind, understanding, respectful and non-abusive when we treat our children in that exact manner. These children then grow up to be parents and treat their children the same – the punitive and angry ways they have learned from their own parents. Not surprising, then, that the anger and antagonism spreads beyond the familial place and into the world towards neighbors, acquaintances, countrymen and foreigners. No wonder then, also, that people implore the same behavior in the name of enforcing righteousness in the world around them through the use of such tools as anger, antagonism, punishment and force – all born out of a desire to prove one’s rightness and not to spread righteousness through the constructive tools of patience, acceptance, love – which, nevertheless, may be enforced through firm and stern behavior – with the desire to spread true righteousness that someone might become inspired by, that someone might feel accepted by, that someone might be changed by and will stop the cycle of hate, violence and punishment.