Should you teach people lessons? Do people who continue to act terribly toward others eventually get what is coming to them naturally? It seems like many people in this world need to be taught a lesson.
The question is should we attempt to teach people lessons ourselves?
Teaching lessons has almost become an American past time. We feel like we are done wrong, then feel like we need to do something to change an individual’s behavior. We reprimand someone in hopes it teaches a lesson. Sometimes we set up elaborate scenarios just to teach someone a lesson.
Do these “lessons” actually work?
We are not teaching people lessons when we try too hard. The more they resist, the less likely it is that any of our efforts will effectively change their behavior or attitudes for the better. It almost seems like we should stop trying so stubbornly and just let go.
Bad habits usually find ways to work themselves out.
People who need lessons usually learn when no one is looking. For example, an alcoholic will slowly lose things in their life—friends, family, jobs, homes, freedom, and sometimes their lives. These are the ultimate lessons to be learned. Someone who cheats at work or school may get ahead in the short term, but in the long term, they miss out on valuable life or business skills.
When we try to intervene and teach someone a lesson short term the lesson reverses. The lesson is “don’t teach people lessons.” Teaching people lessons can become time-consuming, mind-consuming, and put you in a bad mental place. Not to mention that the lesson teaching could backfire.
One example is a coworker who wants to motivate a colleague because it will make her job more manageable with the extra help—she nags and nags to inspire her colleague. Then one day, she decides to tell her superior about the lack of motivation she is seeing. They set up a meeting to confront the behavior. A few days later, the coworker abruptly quits, and she is now left with more work. This is a grand example of when teaching lessons goes wrong.
The reality is the only thing that can teach lessons is the universe. When someone needs to learn, the universe provides lessons. Life will smack people around when they need it. Life will also teach you a lesson for teaching a lesson.
So next time you plan to teach someone a lesson. Think twice, because teaching lessons maybe your lesson.