Ever since Genesis ch 3, bad behaviour defines humanity. We are startled by the first obvious expression of it in little children; we perfect it in ourselves; we mourn its effect on others; and well into old age we seem to be fluent in bad behaviour. By observing the criminal extremes of bad behaviour, Ecclesiastes 8:11 makes a universal observation on bad behaviour.
Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed speedily,Ecclesiastes 8:11 (ESV)
the heart of the children of man is fully set to do evil.
Criminals endlessly awaiting trial develop more skilled expressions of their crime. But that is true of all bad behaviour—from infancy to old age and every age in between. We love justice for bad behaviour when it comes to putting a swift end to crime. However, when it comes to our own bad behaviour, and the bad behaviour of those whom we have a positive relationship with, we tolerate it, excuse it, blame others for it, and generally find ways not to have the bad behaviour exposed and dealt with fairly.
It is true that love covers a multitude of sins among those in close fellowship with each other (1 Pet 4:8), but when persistent bad behaviour is continuously covered up, all kinds of heartache ensues. This is most obvious in parenting. Children who are instructed in what is wrong and what is right in their childish expressions of bad behaviour are spared the heartache of adult expressions of bad behaviour. So also children whose childish expressions of bad behaviour are never corrected, grow up to be the adults who excel in bad behaviour and invent even greater expressions of bad behaviour.
The most basic principle for all behaviour—good or bad—is what God illustrates for mankind with the Sow and Reap picture.
Do not be deceived: God is not mocked,Galatians 6:7-8 (ESV)
for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.
For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption,
but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.
Whether it is parenting little children, advising older children, overseeing people at work, counselling those in need, recovering from drug addiction, overcoming psychiatric dependencies, reforming criminals, guiding the youth, helping a friend, or intervening in a crisis, the Sow and Reap picture offers a necessary alternative to an endless protecting of bad behaviour.
When the consequences of bad behaviour finally come, spare yourself the heartache of protecting bad behaviour. Instead, connect the consequences that are being reaped to the behaviour that was sown. Then you will know what to stop sowing, and the heartache of harsh consequences will dissipate.