Stealing is a Negative Character Trait
by Ron Kurtus (revised 12 January 2010)
Stealing is taking something that belongs to another person—usually something of value. The honest way of obtaining goods is to buy them with money that has been earned.
People usually steal because they don't have a job, they feel it is easier than working, or they see an opportunity to get something for nothing. One advantage of stealing is that the chances of getting caught are slim.
The problem is that if you do get caught stealing, the punishment is jail and distrust from other people. Stealing is not worth the possible consequences of getting caught.
Questions you may have are:
- What motivates people to steal?
- What are the benefits of stealing?
- What are the consequences of stealing?
This lesson will answer those questions.
Motivations to steal
Why do people steal or take things and money that belong to other people, as opposed to working and purchasing items?
Pressure for money
Some people are under the pressure to obtain money or goods. That pressure may be greater than their ability to get what they want or need. For example:
- A person out of work may need money to support his or her family.
- A drug or gambling addict often needs a continuous flow of money to support his or her habit.
- Disadvantaged youths may want to get clothes and gadgets that others have but they can't afford.
A job may often not provide enough of the money needed. If getting money from working is not possible or too difficult, the person may turn to stealing as a way out. The need or desire is so great, that the person feels stealing is worth the risk.
People who steal as a result of greed usually don't have this driving pressure for instant money. Often they already have good jobs or skills.
At a minor level, this is seen where people with good jobs will pilfer from their employer. At a more serious level, corporate executives will rob their company or stockholders out of millions of dollars. They don't need the money, but is it a moral depravity that drives them to steal all that money.
There are also professional criminals who are highly skilled but yet greedy for making large amounts of money. Instead of getting a good job in business, they might prefer to plan and manage major thefts that would garner huge sums of money.
There are also some who have other sources of pressure to steal:
- Kids may be under peer-pressure from their friends to steal something in order to belong to the group.
- Some like the thrill of stealing and getting away with it. It is an inner urge.
In general, there is the desire or need to get money, clothes or goods, but the normal means do not seem to be there or it may be easier to steal than to work for the money.
Benefits from stealing
The benefits or advantages of stealing are that it is a way to get something you want quickly and without much work. A person with little education or skills can suddenly seem wealthy to his friends.
Easier than working
It may take a long time and hard work to be able to afford some expensive item, but a thief can easily steal what he or she wants. Not only that, but for some people stealing can be fun. There is the feeling of a thrill after a successful heist. You don't get that working on some low-level job.
Little chance of getting caught
In many cases, the chances of getting caught stealing are so slim that seems worth it. Besides, if you have nothing to lose, why not steal? Many thieves and robbers know that the chances of getting caught are slim, especially if the person is clever.
This is true not only for the person who robs a store of $100, but also for the person who defrauds investors of millions through some clever scheme. In fact, the chances of getting caught and being punished are often much less for white-collar crime. There have even been church leaders who have pilfered millions of dollars from their congregations, while being honored as a "reverent" person.
People who steal often justify what they do. One reason is that they really need the money right now to buy food, pay off a debt or purchase drugs. The quickest way to get the money is to steal it.
Another reason to steal is that it is much easier than having to work for money or the things you want. You can just take what you want. In fact, they feel that it is even fun to do that.
Others justify stealing by saying that the rich people have all the money and there is nothing wrong with taking it from them. It is like being Robin Hood, except that they don't give to the poor.
There are many people who will do things like take office supplies home from work. They really don't need money, and they justify their pilfering with "the company can afford it." But it is still stealing.
Nothing wrong with it
Some people feel there is nothing wrong with stealing. There are some cultures that believe that stealing from others outside of their group is acceptable, as long as you don’t get caught.
Consequences of stealing
If you think there are true advantages of stealing, consider the consequences. There are a number of negative results from stealing, especially if you get caught. There are social or cultural rules, religious rules and personal morality beliefs against stealing.
Social and cultural consequences
The greatest deterrent to stealing is that it is against the law. If you are caught, you can be punished by being jailed or imprisoned—often for a long time. In some Arab countries, they cut off one hand of a thief as punishment.
Another negative factor in stealing is that people don’t like it when someone steals from them. They become angry and may seek revenge on the person who did the stealing, provided they know who and can catch the thief. There have been cases of a mob of angry people catching a purse-snatcher and beating him senseless.
Once a person has been branded as a thief, other people will no longer trust him or her. Even other thieves do not trust someone who steals.
While the law often punishes the criminal, the casual thief—the person who may take something that doesn't belong to him—can be ostracized by his society, if associates find out about his stealing.
Most religions have rules against stealing. Some simply say the stealing is wrong and against seeking goodness, while others say that stealing is a sin and will result in punishment from God.
Related to religious beliefs is the concept that "what comes around, goes around." In other words, if you steal, someone will steal from you or some other misfortune will happen to you.
But note that there are criminals who are devoutly religious. They sidestep the law and ignore the possibility of punishment from God. Perhaps they justify stealing through their personal moral beliefs.
Personal moral beliefs
Many people have personal moral beliefs that stealing is wrong. They want to do what it right and may even have a guilty conscience if they even did steal something.
Although they may not admit it, some people that steal have been taught that it is not right. The need to get what they want overshadows their inherent moral beliefs.
An unstated consequence of stealing is that thieves often do not feel good about themselves afterwards, even if they needed the money and did not get caught. In general, someone who steals is not a person with much self-esteem. The money or object stolen has a "dirty" feel to it and after a while the thief just does not feel right.
If you are in a situation where you really need money or really want some expensive item, you should never let stealing be a choice. It shouldn't even be in your mind as a possibility. The consequences of stealing can be devastating to your life, especially if you get caught.
Also, you should always appreciate what you have, no matter how little it is. Sure, it is nice to have expensive items, but they only present a false front of who you really are. And if you stole those expensive items, other people will think even less of you than if you didn't have them at all.
Stealing from others is stealing from yourself
Resources and references
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Stealing is a Negative Character Trait