Stealing from others has always been seen as a crime- in fact in years gone by, you could be hanged, or go to prison for years for stealing as little as a fish. Why do people steal, and is punishing them always the right course of action?
There are many reasons why people steal. One of the most obvious ones is in order to feed themselves or their family. I often hear people say that they would never steal, but I believe desperation and possible starvation would force many people to steal to survive.
Another reason to steal is to be seen to be cool in front of your friends or just for the thrill of it. Sadly for many retailers, teenage years have several rites of passage and one of them can be the act of stealing and getting away with it. I have met people who describe how they felt elated when they stole something from a shop. Often, they were not at all interested in what they were stealing, but the thrill of getting away with it was worth it and the thought of getting one over on the establishment was motive enough. This type of behaviour is often short lived, and the teenager grows into an adult that has more respect for other people's possessions. Of course, this is not always the case!
A third reason that people steal is because of deprivation. They do not know this is what is driving them, but they are unconsciously telling the world that their needs are not being met. Often these people begin to steal as children. They have experienced deprivation (usually of an emotional kind) and so they develop a sense of entitlement to money and objects outside of the house. It is a way of trying to fill the emotional gap that the parents or caregivers left, but as with other compulsive behaviours, it does not solve the problem at all. This leads them to repeat the behaviour and become more and more confident, stealing riskier and riskier items in an attempt to not feel the deprivation.
The fourth category of people that steal, do it because they can. It is a lot easier to take someone else's money than have to earn your own. This can be learned behaviour or just something that is picked up along the way.
Whatever the reason that you steal, our societies do not condone the behaviour. Many people learn the hard way what is like to lose everything you value to a thief. It can feel as though you have been violated, just because you know they have been going through your possessions and treasures.
People often steal because they feel insecure and less than. Learning that stealing is not the way to form loving and happy relationships with the people you know and the people you steal from is part of learning respect. One rule that it always helps to keep in mind is- Can I have it? Is it mine? If the answer to those two questions is yes, then you are entitled to it. If it belongs to anyone else, you can have it if you ask them, and they agree.
Learning to respect other peoples' possessions is just part of growing up. If countries and governments learned this, then the world would be a lot more harmonious!
Treat others as you wish to be treated- and this will teach them to treat you with respect.
Written by Caroline Nettle
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