Sociology is ripe with theoretical underpinnings seeking to help us understand deviant behaviors, including the Labeling Theory, Learning theories, Anomie and the Strain Theory. In a nutshell, people are not born deviant, or bad. People learn deviant behaviors from their environments and will employ these behaviors when trying to reach a goal, not otherwise obtainable through legitimate means. For example, someone might steal food when hungry, or rob a bank when in need of money for rent.
It's easy for others, who have the means and capital to move through life and obtain goals and build success without resorting to deviance, to label those who have committed crimes as "losers", "scum", "lazy", etc. and to ostracize them which further limits the opportunities of said persons. I have heard many clients explain their rationales for committing crimes, and many times it was for the benefit of others (usually family members and many times children). People with limited opportunities and little hope will resort to whatever means available to satisfy basic needs.
This holiday season, let's employ the best of world religious ideologies and withhold judgement of our fellow human beings who might otherwise engage in behaviors we do not understand or condone. Every person has a story and each story is more complex and easily misunderstood as the next. Let's seek to forgive those who have done others harm, and let's work toward a society that values every member unconditionally. Yes, actions have consequences, and we have a justice system to mete out those consequences, but behind every criminal action is a human being, born innocent unto a world with unequal opportunities and power imbalances, who is deserving of love, kindness and compassion. To me, that's the spirit of the season.
Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas.
Be kind to each other and to yourself.
© Copyright 2014 Douglas Layer, M.A., LPCC