This is an excerpt from an article by S. P. Hein called
Caring, Regret, Change
It is common for teachers
or parents to insist that one child apologize to another.
Yet the first child feels neither regret nor empathy.
This is a good example that you can force behavior, but
not the underlying feelings.
This simple truth, that you can force behavior but not
feelings, is the basis of many social problems. It is so
simple, yet it is so often overlooked, forgotten, or
Throughout our lives people want us to behave a certain
way. They use many tactics, strategies and methods to get
us to do so. The overwhelming emphasis in psychology has
been on behavior. Behavior modification. Behavior
control. Behavioral therapy. Conditioning. Punishment and
Behavior is easier to see, measure, and quantify. One
person's behavior serves another. The behavior of the
worker serves the employer. The behavior of the citizens
serve the rulers and politicians. The behavior of the
slave serves the needs and desires of the master.
An important question to always remember to ask ourselves
is: Does the master care about how the slave feels? Does
the boss care how the worker feels? Does the teacher care
how the student feels? Does the parent care how the child
or teen feels?
It is much easier for a teacher to get one child to
apologize to another, than for her to get the child to
really feel regret and remorse for their action. In other
words, it is easier to force the behavior the teacher
wants than to force the feelings. We might say then that
in general it is easier to force behavior than feelings.
We might also say it is easier to control behavior than
Since it is natural for most humans to do what is easier
and quicker, it makes sense that so much of human history
and human interaction is based on behavior control. But
what then of feelings? What happens when the feelings
don't match the behavior?
What happens is that our emotional
neglected on a massive scale. When needs are not met,
problems follow just as surely as water flows downhill.
Our feelings are indicators of the state of our emotional
needs. When an emotional need is unmet, our bodies send
us a signal, just as when we are hungry, our bodies alert
us. When emotional needs are unmet we feel dissatisfied,
frustrated, discontent. When our emotional needs are met,
satisfied or filled, we feel content, satisfied, good.
As a way of summarizing,
here are some points to remember:
1. Sincere apologies
are very powerful.
2. Sincere apologies arise from sincere feelings.
3. While behavior can be forced, sincere feelings,
and therefore, sincerity itself, cannot.
4. When behavior is controlled without regard for the
underlying feelings, emotional needs get neglected.
5. When emotional needs are not met, personal and
social problems quickly follow.