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Hurt does not equal instruction

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“Those things that hurt, instruct.”
- Benjamin Franklin


No offense to Mr. Franklin, but I honestly have no idea what he meant to convey in this quote. Is one of our founding fathers advocating any kind of violence whatsoever, whether it be physical, verbal, or sexual abuse? Franklin was a man of great wisdom, but there is no evidence of this in the above quotation. As a victim of his older brother’s abusive beatings, one would think that Franklin would have better sense than to suggest physical consequences as the answer. Could Franklin possibly be suggesting such a preposterous belief?

When Franklin refers to “those things that hurt,” what exactly is he talking about? Is Franklin referring to emotional sadness, lessons in life and love, or physical pain? The previously mentioned distinction is very important, for while it is one thing to say that when a child burns his hand on a lit stove, he will learn to no longer touch the stove; but it is a whole other stance to believe that corporal punishment is a certifiable method of instruction. If Benjamin Franklin had expressed even a shred of the wisdom he is famous for, then he simply would not have said the above quote in quite that context. Rather, he would have done well to specify exactly what he meant by those five words, as they can make a world of difference in the meaning of the quote. This quote can be taken lightly, as a way of saying that we learn from mild consequences, or it can be taken to the other extreme of serious violence.

This preposterous belief of Franklin’s, that pain is an instructor, simply has no basis in the real world. Although Franklin may have meant that humans learn from past mistakes, this is undeniably not suggested in this quote. Indeed, not all pain serves the purpose of teaching. Does the battered child learn? How about the rape victim or woman in an abusive relationship? What do these people learn from their respective hurt? I sincerely believe that Franklin overlooked most of the pain and hurt in this world in saying this quote, for although in some cases, he is correct, about two thirds of the time, his reasoning does not apply to the modern world we live in.




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