Our kids/us are stealing every day and we do not know it. If we knew it, we wouldn’t be calling what we do: being mean, bullying, gossiping, lying, plagiarizing, etc. Basically, we are stealing. We just don’t think we are until we break the concept down to where a 6 year-old understands. The basis for all law is the 10 commandments. The 8th commandment is Thou Shall Not Steal. “It means we cannot take anything that belongs to another person.”1
So here is the question to ask your students. (They can do this by themselves or in a group of 2 or 3. We want them to think).
Do not steal means: We cannot take anything that belongs to another person. So, what does anything include? I’ll give 5 minutes to make a list.
They will probably write down material things like, money, clothes, a car, an IPad, etc.
What will be interesting is will your students think that:
Murder is stealing another person’s life.
Adultery is the stealing of another person’s spouse.
Giving false testimony (lying) is stealing justice.
Stealing another human being is kidnaping. People are kidnaped for the purpose of selling them into slavery or for ransom. Many times, Sex Trafficking begins with kidnaping.
What will be interesting will the students think of non-material things each person owns such as:
Humiliation is stealing a person’s dignity. Why would humiliating someone steal someone’s dignity? What would you say or do to cause someone to feel ashamed or foolish? Why would you do this? (It’s a powerful feeling to humiliate).
Dignity is a very precious thing — it’s about pride in oneself, self-respect, feeling a sense of worthiness. No good person steals another’s dignity. When you humiliate someone, especially in public, it’s damaging to both parties. (It would be interesting to hear the examples of humiliation they have seen — humiliating experiences are not just what kids experience — everyone in school experiences it.)
Being deceitful is stealing a person’s trust. A boyfriend cheating on his girlfriend. A friend slips a drug into your drink just to see what you will do. A roommate stealing jewelry, money etc.
Slander, gossip, libel (defamation expressed by print, pictures, signs) is stealing someone’s reputation.
You steal someone’s good name and that person may never recover. We have all seen examples of the smearing of a person’s character with words like racist, sexist, or some other stupid slander. It doesn’t matter if a person is innocent. Their name is damaged and people who were friends/colleagues move away. They do not want to be seen with you.
Plagiarism is stealing someone’s words.
When you download music, movies without paying for them you are stealing intellectual property.
Until I read Dennis Prager Essay: The Unique Importance of the Commandment Against Stealing, I didn’t realize the full meaning of Stealing. Imagine the change in your school, if there was NO STEALING. Most of the stealing is the non-material things each of us owns.