Justice means rendering to each his due. Along with temperance, courage and prudence, it is one of the four cardinal virtues. According to Catholic theology, these virtues are supposed to help people build “the good life”. Ironically, however, nowadays there seems to be a hyper-stress on justice.
The problem with this over-concentration? Without justice tempered by something like mercy, forgiveness, or nonviolence, retribution becomes the default response and an eye-for-an-eye mentality can blind the world. Indeed, rather than improving life, an obsession with just justice – history shows us this grimly – turns our interaction with each other into a slaughterhouse.
“I think the great public teaching of Jesus is the teaching about turning the other cheek and loving enemies,” Bishop Robert Barron of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles told Freethink. “In other words, stand firm and signal to him that you refuse to cooperate with the world in which he lives. other plays, you say, ‘I’m not going to let you hit me that way, again.'”
In doing so, we act as a sort of mirror of the other person’s behavior and give them a chance to reflect. This non-violent plan of attack does not destroy the other person and allows the ultimate victory: the change of attitude of the person; in deeds. In our daily lives, however, how do we begin to “turn the other cheek” in our own conflicts? We begin by practicing the simplest acts of love.
Barron adds: “Love is not a feeling. Love is an act of will. “To love”, says Thomas Aquinas, “is to want the good of the other”.
The power of tempered justice
Perhaps one of the best modern examples of cultural justice is the very public work done by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., whose nonviolent protests not only brought about rapid social change, but did so by mercy and courage, inspiring more Support. “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that,” Dr. King once said. “Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”
Indeed, recent research—from studies done at Baylor University—supports the idea that at least refraining from negative behaviors, such as arguing or emotionally withdrawing, can actually do a lot to save our lives. relationships in times of conflict. It’s not just doing the act of kindness that matters, but also not turning around the bad behaviors that help us build lasting relationships, come hell or high water, with others.
Somehow, because people aren’t perfect, not practicing strict justice is essential to building and maintaining relationships. But can this seemingly passive response to “evil” really change situations for the better? “It’s supposed to be a bold and courageous stand,” Bishop said. “He tries to put a spanner in the works of evil. . . but never in a way that destroys the bad person. It’s supposed to be liberating.
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In a way, kindness heals the wounds caused by past bad behavior. It may sound spiritual, but the effects of “love” can be real and far-reaching. Recent research suggests, for example, that romantic relationships may even protect us against cancer. True, experts do not know exactly how. The fact that the glue between the pair-linked mice helped them survive—that it was something that seemed measurable, a real phenomenon—was in itself as mystifying as it was illuminating.
Unfortunately, doctors cannot prescribe love. It also cannot be bottled and sold as your favorite sports drink. It is something, however, that we can voluntarily practice in our daily lives. Rather than overemphasizing justice, we can live — gracefully — and let live. By doing so, we can unconsciously trigger a series of events whose positive endgame we could not have imagined before, when we were vaguely obsessed with returning evil for evil.
Rather than strict justice, a tempered pursuit of justice – of fairness – might indeed help us find “the good life.” How? By remaining in good relations with others. In life’s unpredictable times, our relationships with others not only allow us to be more resilient when the hard times come – and they will – but also give us the comfort of knowing that others have our backs. Treating others fairly also encourages them to behave the same towards us.
Indeed, according to a study published in Social Justice Research, students who believed they lived in a just world were more likely to act justly. That is, the study authors found that such a belief reduced instances of cheating in college courses. Imagine what such a belief could do outside of school. Indeed, although we’ve all heard the saying that “life itself isn’t fair” – usually as a maxim to roll with the punches – a belief in fair systems elevates our behavior. It encourages us to play fair.
It is often said that we live in a world of dog-eating dogs. It may be true. If so, however, this state of affairs provides an incredible backdrop for acts of love to shine through. Especially in the eyes of those who may have mistreated us. Harsh realities make kindness — not just fairness — always more compelling. And such persuasion can turn enemies into friends. Stranger things have happened.