The softer side of justice

A modern examination of conscience.  (But not too modern… we’re loyal to the teachings of the Catholic Church here!)

When I see that wrong has been done, my heart pounds and anger rises to my cheeks.  I’m eager for “justice to be served.”  To dole out punishments, to right wrongs.  That’s just anger at its finest.

But justice is more than a punitive virtue.  It’s not all about laws and rules and rigid enforcement.  Justice means giving each person what they deserve, in both a positive and a negative way.

So yes, if someone deserves punishment, justice allows us to go all Jesus-in-the-temple.  To overturn tables and put a stop to the evil.

But it also reminds us that every person is made in the image of God, and deserves to be treated with dignity and respect.  The poor deserve to have their needs met.  The hurting deserve compassion.  Our children deserve our love and attention.


Justice: every person is made in the image of God, and deserves to be treated with dignity and respect.  Tweet this.


That’s the softer side of justice.

Justice needs love.

In fact, justice and charity go hand-in-hand.  They’re complementary virtues.  They bring out the best in each other.

But they’re not synonyms.  Charity arises from seeing the other person as another self.  Loving them as we love ourselves.  Doing to others what we would have them do to us.  Charity is a virtue that draws on empathy.

Whereas justice is a virtue of distinction.  We see the other and recognize their independence from us.  It helps us draw boundaries and respect a person’s rights and privacy.  It makes sure we don’t take advantage of others because God made them to be their own self.  They’re worthy of honor and respect in all their differences.

This month, we’ll touch on the traditional understanding of justice: righting wrongs, restoring good where evil has been done.

But I want to focus on the softer side of justice.  The less obvious aspects.  Let’s discover how to apply godly justice in our daily lives by giving every person what they deserve, and honoring the distinction between ourselves and our neighbor.

Social justice

  • Uphold the law

This is the concept that pops in my mind when I think of justice.  The justice of the law.  Bringing the bad guy to accounts.  We consider it the job of policemen, law-makers and enforcers.  They keep our country in right order.  They punish crimes.  But we also have a duty to uphold the law as citizens.  To fasten our seat-belt, obey the speed limit, pay our taxes.  We have to obey proper authority.  We have to “give to Caesar what is Caesar’s.”

  • Help those in need

This is another duty we’re sometimes tempted to pass off to government officials.  We expect them to feed the poor, clothe the naked, give shelter to the homeless.  But we can do our part in this too.  We can donate our money or our time.  We can help make sure everyone has access to the resources they need.

Justice for everyone

  • Respect property

Have you ever borrowed something and forgot to return it?  How about visited a friend and left a mess at their house?  When it comes to respecting other people’s property, we’re not limited to “don’t steal or vandalize.”  We’re called to recognize and respect the value of our neighbor’s things.  Return that book.  Pitch in to clean up before you pack up.  Your friend deserves that from you.

  • Respect opinions

Everyone has a right to their own property, and a right to their own opinion.  Healthy debate is good.  But don’t cut down or belittle others.  Don’t destroy their intellectual property any more than you would vandalize their physical property.

  • Respect privacy

We’re oh-so-curious.  Why isn’t that couple pregnant yet?  Why didn’t they come to my picnic?  What were they doing at that doctor’s office?  But it’s unjust to pry.  We need to respect other people’s right to privacy.  Respect the boundaries of the relationship.  There’s a real divide between you and your neighbor, and we all need to allow that natural distance to exist where appropriate.  The closer you are to a friend, the more details you’ll share.  But prying more than somebody is ready to talk is fishing for gossip.

Justice for relationships

  • Learn their love language

Discover each other’s love languages.  We all deserve to be loved in the way we understand, a way that makes us feel loved.  I feel loved when my husband lends a helping hand.  I also feel like I’m loving him when I do something helpful for him.  But he feels loved through touch: a hug, a kiss, a back rub.  He deserves to be loved that way.  So it’s my duty to honor that, to give him love the way he knows how to receive it.  And it’s his duty to do the same for me.  That’s justice in love.

  • Love on a bad day

One day, I had plans for a fun family day at the beach.  When we got up in the morning, I was excited, happy, organized, and ready to go.  But my husband ran into work problems, and was stressed, distracted, and crabby.  I started to get grumpy that he wasn’t sharing my excitement but then I realized he has a right to bad days.  He needed support and understanding, not condemnation.  He needed some space to work things through.  So I decided to back off and respect the very real stress and struggle my husband was feeling.  I decided to be just, and accept his bad day.  Give your spouse (or boyfriend, or coworker, or anyone) the support and dignity they deserve on a bad day.

  • Accept family differences

Okay this one’s gonna be hard.  You are who you are because of your parents, your upbringing, and the choices you made in response.  No matter what, they’ll always be a part of who you are.  The same is true for your spouse.  His family had a major influence in making him the man he is – the man you know and love.  We can’t erase every annoying reflection of our in-laws from our beloved spouse.  He shouldn’t turn into “another me.”  We should grow and change together, becoming better versions of ourselves, and at the same time, respecting and incorporating the differences in a beautiful way.

Justice for parents

  • Just discipline.

“Give ’em what they deserve.”  Not in a vengeful get-him-back kind of way, but sometimes kids just. don’t. get it. right.  And it’s our duty to teach them right from wrong in a way that helps them understand.  Do your best to avoid disciplining in anger.  Instead, focus on logical consequences and life-long lessons.  Because our kids deserve a chance to learn, to make mistakes, and to be lovingly guided toward right choices.

  • Give your children autonomy

It’s so adorable: she looks just like you.  He has a sense of humor.  They remind you of your childhood.  Your kids will resemble you, but they won’t be a mini you.  They like chocolate, you like vanilla.  They play soccer, you played basketball.  They’re outdoorsy, you’re a bookworm.  Remember this, even when you dress your kids.  You may feel cold, but if they’re running around, they don’t need a sweatshirt.  God made your kids who they are, with their own passions and personalities.  Celebrate their differences, not just their similarities to you.

  • Provide for your kids’ needs

We know as parents we have a duty to provide for our kids – food, clothing, shelter, education.  We have to make sure their basic needs are met.  But we often overlook our kids’ emotional needs.  They need our love, our attention, hugs, compassion.  In this digital age, it’s often too easy to get caught up in social media, to the detriment of our kids.  They deserve to be heard and respected.  It’s okay for them to hate that outfit and feel sad about a silly broken toy.  Don’t tell them, “Don’t be sad,” or, “Stop crying.”  That’s not parenting, it’s bullying.  Adopt a spirit of emotional justice towards your children.  Be there for them when they need to talk, cry, laugh, or hug it out.

Take the challenge:

Are you ready to grow in justice?  Let’s get started!  Here’s what you need to do:

  1. Prepare. Reread this post carefully and reflect on what it means in your life.  Print out your materials and place them in convenient places in your home.
  2. Every morning, start the day with prayer (find it on your Nightstand Guide).
  3. Throughout the day, use your Fridge Guide to help integrate justice into your life. Your Fridge guide has brief reminders, and some bonus extras (like an indulgenced prayer – woot!).
  4. Every evening, pray the nightly Examen (find it on your Nightstand Guide). This is a step-by-step review of your day, including praying for forgiveness, and resolving to do better tomorrow.
  5. Before confession (or weekly at least), prayerfully read the Examination of Conscience. Reflect, not only on your sins and failings, but also on how God has blessed you with growth in virtue!

Download your free printables

Justice Virtue Challeng Printables
Click to download

This Virtue Challenge is going to change your life!  I pray God gives each of you (and me too, I need this) the grace you need to grow in justice and to become the saint He’s calling you to be.

Take the Justice Virtue Challenge now!  Grab some cardstock, print your printables, and get ready for a grace-filled, growth-filled month.

Created in conjunction with Momsters Raising Monsters

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4 thoughts on “The softer side of justice

  1. I have never thought about the “positive” side of justice until now. Such a great way to look at justice as it meant to be viewed. I love Anni’s idea of putting that prayer in the car as well as the fridge! Might prevent a lot of road rage that occurs way to often!!

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