Criminal thinking is a consistent pattern of distorted thinking errors that result in irresponsible and arrestable behavior. One of the most common errors in thinking is the failure to consider the injury to others.
As a general rule, criminal thinkers do not consider the effect of their actions on others. Brief moments of guilt or remorse are quickly replaced with feelings of being a victim themselves or self-righteousness for the harm they have caused. When offenders express what appears to be sincere regret, careful examination will show that these overtures are typically used to tell others what they want to hear. They are sorrier they were caught than remorseful for the harm they have caused by their actions.
Congruent with failing to consider the injury to others, criminal thinkers also don’t consider themselves bad people. The drug dealer will argue he isn’t forcing anyone to buy drugs. The drug addict will claim she isn’t hurting anyone but herself. The domestic abuser will say he didn’t mean to hurt anyone and the thief will say she has to make a living and insurance will cover it anyway. When criminal thinkers heed the advice of A.A.’s fourth step and take a searching and fearless moral inventory and honestly think about the injury they have caused, they begin to change their distorted sense of positive self-worth. They can then more accurately conclude that they are a victimizer more than a victim and have deeply harmed others.
Replacing the thinking error of failing to consider the injury to others involves becoming aware of the full impact of abusive and criminal behavior. It is important that one not only look at legally defined criminal behavior, but also examine irresponsible actions such as lying, deceit, conning, game playing, vindictiveness, and other tactics. For lasting change to occur it is essential that criminal thinkers go beyond immediate injury and consider the “ripple effect.” For example, in the case of property theft, consideration should be made regarding the crime’s affect on the business owner’s attitude, feelings, friends, and family. The affect on the offender’s attitude, friends and family should also be explored along with the ripple affect of the crime in relation to property values, feelings of safety, insurance rates, and a host of other consequences. The purpose of this activity is to aid the criminal thinker in developing, expanding and sustaining a moral conscience. Guilt is only of value if it is used to change undesirable behavior and develop a sensitive, well-formed conscience. Criminal thinkers do have a conscience but render it inoperative through repeated patterns of corrosion and cutoff. Feelings of guilt and remorse are corroded and thoughts about the impact of their behavior is cut off. Regularly and thoughtfully contemplating injury to others helps redevelop the criminal conscience and strengthens it for deterring insensitive and criminal acts in the future.
Offenders, addicts, and even the taxpaying public can benefit from understanding and deterring the thinking errors we all possess at different moments in time throughout our lives. True freedom begins in the mind.