I don't believe in punishment - either in the cosmic or the personal sense. I don't subscribe to the notion that something in the univserse will strike me with a lightning bolt if I defy its mandates. I don't believe that any bad luck that befalls me is because I didn't go to church last Sunday, or because I swore seven times yesterday, or even because I took home a couple of pads of sticky notes from my office. Conversely, I don't feel I'll be rewarded just because I spent some extra time helping an elderly neighbor with her Christmas cards, or took an afternoon off work to take my mom Christmas shopping and out to dinner. I have always subscribed to the adage that you can "catch more flies with honey than vinegar." I think it's true in parenting, in dog training, and in dealing with most human beings. If you reward the behavior you want to encourage, you'll be more successful (not to mention happier!) than if you're constantly punishing behavior that's wrong. How much more peaceful would life be if people operated on that principle?
I do believe that "what goes around comes around." In the ever spinning cycle of earth and life, there are difficult times and wonderful times. Sometimes, we can help bring one or the other to pass, sometimes it's totally out of our control. One of my favorite verses in the Bible says it perfectly..."To every thing, there is a season, and a time and purpose under heaven." (For those who aren't familiar with the Christian Bible, a group called the Byrd's sang about it in the sixties in a song called Turn, Turn, Turn.)
Sometimes, when life is hard, its difficult not to cry out "What did I do to deserve this?" It's hard to accept that in all of life, bad things happen, especially when it seems your life is filled with more bad than good. There is purpose in all of life's vicissitudes - we learn and grow during those tough times. When I'm going through one of those rough places, those times in life when I'm turning toward the dark side, I ask myself "what is the lesson? what is it I'm supposed to learn?" Although the answer may not be immediately apparent, it usually comes clear to me at some point. And therein lies my reward. for more thoughts on this topic, go here