When I think of Justice, my mind automatically goes to the female archetype of a divine figure in a flowing gown. She is blindfolded, carrying scales in one hand and a sword in another. The overall feel I have for this Lady of Justice is actually one of Nurturance. As a female figure, she is motherly with a soft yet stern demeanor, one of creating a safe place for her children to flourish. She offers fairness and impartiality alongside accountability and discipline. She seeks balance and acts like a mother lioness. She will let her cubs wander off to a certain distance in order to gain independence but will quickly bring them close should they wander too far.
In the lion family, the cubs soon get a sense of how far they can go and will occasionally push the limit. The lioness, on the other hand, has an innate sense of where her cubs are at all times. With a simple growl, she can get their attention immediately. The cubs collectively sense their mother’s presence and comply with her orders, innately aware of the unspoken rule amongst them all. Each cub instinctively knows that they can endanger the whole clan if their behavior draws the Lioness’s attention for too long. Each cub is treated fairly with the expectation that they will flourish without endangering the collective unit. The cubs have respect for their lioness mother and knows that she would sacrifice her own life in order to save them from danger.
Ideally, on a societal level, the Justice system can work when those within it seek to keep it in balance. The mere presence of Lady Justice can serve to remind us to stay mindful of behaviors that harm self or others. It can remind us to look out for others. With Justice, we recognize that we are living within a greater social unit. We realize that with any freedom granted comes a sense of community responsibility to ensure Justice for all.
With Justice, there is sweet reciprocity and a delicate balance where the protected also protect the protector, Lady Justice herself. We nurture Justice so she can nurture us.
“Justice is what love looks like in public.” -Cornel West
How We Best Serve Justice
We best serve Justice by being Just in our daily dealings with others no matter how mundane. We serve Justice by being consistently Mindful of our own actions in order to not create harm to self or others. To some extent, we can act as our own enforcers of Justice, ensuring accountability for our own actions. We repent, apologize, ask for forgiveness and implement remedies as necessary in an interactive manner with any party we may have harmed.
We can also admit to any wrongdoing. We can “turn ourselves in” so to speak and ask for the mercy of the “court (i.e., those we have harmed).” We can listen and then we can sincerely say, “What can I do to make this right?”
When we behave in this responsible manner, Lady Justice does not have to turn her head or swing her sword. The system of balance is maintained.
Credit for Time Served
Sometimes, we can be hard on ourselves for the real or imagined wrongs we may have committed upon others in everyday life. Justice entails being fair to ourselves as well as to those we may have harmed. After we sincerely seek to remedy the wrong we have done, we can then forgive ourselves─ and move on. We can let go and grow from the experience. We don’t have to allow ourselves to carry shame after we have done all we can to remedy our wrongdoings.
Be wary if you have the tendency to take on blame beyond what is reasonable or if you are prone to self-punishment. Remember that Justice is about balance. Don’t carry a life sentence of shame for feeling that you have done something wrong just by being who you are. We can sometimes carry a wound of being made to feel “just not good enough” in some vague manner and continue to unconsciously punish ourselves by feeling unlovable, stupid, ugly or any other of the myriad ways we can put ourselves down.
The real injustice is cruel and unusual self-punishment. True Justice, however, demands full pardons for all crimes of the self-inflicted, including unwarranted shame.
Inability to Admit Wrongdoing
On the other hand, if we are fragile in regards to our sense of self, it is difficult to admit wrong doing at all. In this case, to admit being wrong is to somehow admit unworthiness of self instead of unworthiness of action. It is a black-and-white way of thinking, where one is either “all good” or “all bad.” This mindset is generally unconscious and can serve as a form of self-protection for a fragile sense of self. If one is never wrong at all, then one can never be “all wrong.”
In fostering Justice in a particular scenario, we want to ask ourselves: How might I have contributed to this situation? Is there anything I could have done differently? Could I have been more proactive in some positive manner? Was there some factor that I did not understand or that I was blind to in this situation?
Good people do bad things. Good people make mistakes. Good people can be oblivious to their own behaviors at times as well, inadvertently harming others. When we practice admitting wrongdoing in a particular situation, we grow stronger as a person. We can separate action from our absolute value of self. We can say, “I generally try to be a good person, but in this case I did something that harmed someone I care about. I want to do all I can to make it better.”
Seek Justice, Not Revenge
Justice demands that we seek Justice for ourselves and others. In this way, the whole system of Justice is maintained and nurtured and the energy is not distorted into vengeance. Revenge is not Justice. Revenge is a contrasting Energy fueled by emotions of anger. The scales of Justice are said to be informed with equal measures of Wisdom and Reason. Wisdom and Reason, however, will likely be distorted for those directly impacted by a wrong, as they are emotionally charged in regards to whatever wrong they have experienced.
Justice would demand the impartial hearing of all matters. On a personal level, we either have to wait until emotions have calmed down or we seek assistance from an objective third party.
An “eye-for-an-eye” mentality would not likely serve Justice. If everyone practiced this, then we would eventually all be blind. Such a doctrine does not serve the underlying nurturing function of Justice.
Also, be wary of passive-aggressive application of revenge, a common method of unconsciously exacting revenge from those we feel hurt by. When we feel a wrong has been unaddressed, we may exact our Justice by something as simple as a “cold shoulder” or some other expression of anger.
“Justice cannot take root amidst rage.” -Thurgood Marshall
Seeking Justice for ourselves can involve either seeking resolution for unresolved grievances or simply finding a way to let it go fully. Many of us walk around with unmentioned, unresolved grievances held against loved ones and/or prior caretakers. In essence, these grievances are silent, unconscious, on-going demands for Justice.
If gone unhealed, unresolved grievances can leave the scales of Justice unbalanced, awaiting resolution.
The irony in unresolved and unmentioned grievances is that the person who committed the action for which the grievance is held does not get a chance to state their case or admit wrongdoing as long as the grievance remains under cover. We need to file our grievances and let them be heard in order for Justice to be served. It is true that we may not get the answers we like if we do this. On the other hand, however, we may be pleasantly surprised. Regardless of the outcome, by shedding light on our long-held grievances, Justice is served in the fact that doing so helps us to process the emotions associated with the wrongdoing and we gain greater understanding overall from the experience.
We Are Blind When We Feel “Fine”
We are often blind to injustice on a collective scale when we are not subject to the negative impacts of a particular societal injustice or if we remain unaware of it. Justice demands that we awaken from our slumber and open our eyes to the reality that injustice is occurring in some manner to individuals or whole classes of people all the time. With this kind of injustice, someone or a group of “someones,” such as women, gay individuals, people of color or the poor, are is not being treated how we would like to be treated if we were in their shoes.
Injustice might mean the overall system is broken or needs adjustment through legislative action like the Civil Rights Act, sexual harassment laws or recognition of same-sex marriages. The system of Justice can be fragile. This system is sensitive to the tendencies of individuals or groups who act in their own self-interest instead of the good of the overall system in fairness to others whose life circumstances or beliefs differ from their own. Injustice is always the result of this kind of behavior.
When a group or an individual is a victim of injustice, it means that someone else is benefitting in some way from it. Justice demands that we all stay vigilant in order to correct individual and societal injustices at all times for the good of the overall system. To assume “all is well in the world” just because we are “doing fine” is a form of complacency inconsistent with the reciprocal dynamics demanded by Justice. Justice is a collective concern and a collective expression of The Golden Rule.
We all want an overall system that espouses fairness. And we all bear the burden of upholding and enforcing accountability for that system and accountability from those in positions of leadership whose job it is to serve it.
“Rednecks, hippies, misfits, we’re all the same. Gay or straight? So what? We have to be concerned about other people regardless. I don’t like seeing anyone treated unfairly. It sticks in my craw.” -Willie Nelson
We encounter various forms of injustice every day. We as individuals have the power to nip these small incidents in the bud in order to serve Lady Justice so the burden they create does not accumulate.
Gossip is an everyday injustice. The person being talked about and judged is typically not present to answer to whatever is being said. My advice: don’t engage in it. Call it out for what it is. When gossip comes up, simply say “I don’t participate in gossip.” Shine Light on it.
Prejudice is another everyday injustice. Be wary of your own prejudices, if any. Immediately shed light on any prejudice you may see within yourself or within others.
Lying, greed, self-importance and pettiness are all forms of everyday injustice crying for Light to be shed upon them.
“Never be afraid to raise your voice for honesty and truth and compassion against injustice, lying and greed. If people all over the world would do this, it would change the Earth.” -William
Life as Unfair?
The changing nature and overall impermanence of life can make our own lives appear to be “unfair.” When we couple individual life changes such as illness, the death of a loved one, divorce and economic upheaval with the overall unconscious behavior of humankind that is constantly reported about on the nightly news, injustice can seem to prevail. We are even primed for this belief as children, as parents often tell their children when the latter accuse the former of being unjust, “Who told you life was fair?” This phrase, rather than empowering us to take action against injustice, encourages us to accept injustice as an inevitable part of life— to submit to it rather than actively combat it.
We see wrongfully convicted individuals being freed after spending large portions of their life in prison. We see people being abused. We see people discriminated against based upon race, gender or other factors. We see giving, loving people struck down by disease. We see people who get ripped off of their life savings. We see leaders act in self-serving ways and get away with it. We know hard working people who are consistently passed over for promotions or laid off completely. We ourselves might actually be one of those people to whom this has happened. We can simply reach a state of “overwhelm” with it all.
I held the view that life was inherently unfair when my father passed away when I was young. Reflecting about it as an adult, I realize that at the time I grieved for both my father and for the loss of some idea of “fairness” I had in the world. I see more fairness than unfairness now as the years go by. I see a larger umbrella of Justice than I ever saw before. I see all of us who live on Earth as bookended by birth and death; all of us face impermanence, pain and loss. As I reach middle age and beyond, I realize that there is nothing personal in these life events. Eventually, they happen to us all.
I do see that inequity exists within these two bookends. I like to think that there is some long-term equalizer whereby a balance is ultimately achieved as our souls advance “beyond the bookends” of birth and death. We can receive a favored life this time around where we are empowered, gavel in hand. In another life, we may be disfavored and “gaveled down.” We ultimately learn from both sides of the equation as our souls are schooled over lifetimes. I believe this process occurs so that injustice will be disallowed in the very long term.
Each of us may know an “old soul.” These folks seem to emit an aura of Justice, among other traits. We can all get there, as our souls progress, and Justice can then be better for all. Meanwhile, Justice has improved in many situations and places these days. While it can suffer setbacks, I believe it does get better over time.
I also believe that there exists a collective karmic arc within the “bookends” of life and death. The more we do in between those bookends to disallow and end injustice, the better. We can shorten the arc of karma within our own lives and for humanity as a whole by our actions to end injustice.
We can learn and grow from injustice, individually and collectively. Injustice will continually challenge us to be better people and to make life more Just. From each challenge, we can endeavor to become better, not bitter.
“Diamonds cannot be polished without friction. Gold cannot be purified without fire. Good people go through trials, but don’t suffer. With that experience, their life becomes better, not bitter.” -Ramkrishna Paramahansa
Justice is fundamentally informed by Nurturance. It embodies a system of collective care which nurtures us and which we must all nurture in turn.
Justice is supported by Empathy as manifested in the Golden Rule of treating others how we want to be treated. We treat others fairly because we prefer to be treated fairly.
Respect allows Justice to treat all as valuable beings, separating action and behavior.
Justice is always informed by Wisdom, Reason, Non-Judgment and Equanimity. True Justice does not come forth from reactionary or emotionally-charged perspectives. We can seek third party systems of review to help ensure impartiality.
Perseverance supports Justice in that when it is administered within a collective system, it is often process-oriented over time. The innocent person who is jailed will likely never give up seeking Justice. The disenfranchised group will fight the long and steady fight for equity.
Optimism is always present alongside Justice, even if it is not visible. Optimism is expressed in the long-term hope that Justice will be served, that it will serve us with greater Wisdom and that systems of Justice will be responsive to serving her.
Acceptance helps us to first acknowledge an injustice before moving on to seek a resolution.
Seeking and/or granting Forgiveness can serve Justice by releasing resentment and unspoken demands for Justice.
- Justice demands daily application and practice of the Golden Rule. Treat others with fairness, as you would like to be treated.
- Practice Mindfulness in regards to thoughts and feelings of being slighted, treated unfairly, holding a grievance, or desires for vengeance. Seek appropriate processing and resolution of such feelings in an interactive manner wherever possible. Sometimes, the resolution will be to let go, while at other times, thoughtful action is necessary.
- We all have prejudices inside of us, i.e. ways we judge others based on societal norms and our own pre-conceived notions. Self-monitor for these prejudices within yourself.
- Practice admitting wrong-doing whenever the need arises. Be open to receiving feedback when you have harmed someone in some way. Question yourself in any conflict as to what role you may have possibly played in the scenario. Ask: How might I have contributed to the situation? Is there anything I could have done differently? Could I have been more proactive in some manner? Were there some factors that I did not understand or that I may have even been blind to?
- Be cognizant of issues of social justice. Seek understanding from the perspective of the parties that may be disenfranchised.
- Take action to enact positive changes through social activism and political participation.
- Do not gossip.
May All Beings Be Happy.
I Know Who I Am; May All Others Be Happy.
Please Let Me Treat All Others As I Expect To Be Treated; Please Help Me Seek Fairness For All.
May All Beings Be Treated Fairly; May All Beings Have Justice.
I AM READY TO BE SEEN; I AM READY TO BE HEARD; I AM READY TO BE VISIBLE.