Divine JusticeA man who knows he has committed a mistake and doesn’t correct it is committing another mistake.
Children love to hear me tell the true story of the curious six-year-old girl who stole a bag of potato chips and ran home to tell her mother. Long before my confession, they whisper conspiratorially, having guessed the thief’s identity. I remember my mother’s kind, resolute command to return the unopened booty and apologize to the grocer for what I had done. The walk back to the store was interminable. “How did she feel walking back to that store?” I ask. “Scared!” chant the children, their eyes wide in empathy.
I remember how my heart pounded as I re-entered the store. On tiptoe, I placed the bag onto the counter and looked up into the grocer’s solemn face. “I’m sorry,” I cried, a tear sliding down my cheek. “Well now, you’re the first one who brought it back.” And then he smiled.
“And how did the little girl feel on the way home?” I ask the children. “Happy! They all shout. “When you do things that you know are wrong, practicing justice helps you make amends.” The children nod wisely.
- Linda Kavelin Popov, Sacred Moments - Daily Meditations on The Virtues.©1996
As an inspiring international speaker on the cultivation of personal and corporate virtues, character education, women's development and community healing, psychotherapist and organizational development consultant Linda Kavelin Popov is a charter member of the National Think Tank on Character for the Boys & Girls Clubs of America. She is on the Advisory Editorial Board for the Spirituality and Ethics segment on CTV National News in Canada. In 2001 she received a Women of Distinction Award from the YW/YMCA. Her work is being applied in communities traumatized by student murders, in day-care centers, prisons and by diverse faith communities. She has been a guest on the Oprah Show and many other talk shows addressing strategies for transforming violence to virtues. She co-produced the television series Virtues: A Family Affair and has written the books and materials which form the core of The Virtues Project™.
What goes around comes around.
It takes courage to rise up from my mistakes, to admit uncertainty and ignorance about making the right moves in my life, and to risk falling on my face. It takes even more courage to face the music, to own the results of my mistakes, and to work toward a just settlement of the score. What mistakes might I have made in my life that justice would require me to remedy?
In the remarkable writings of Gary Zukav, the concept of “non-judgmental justice” is discussed at some length. Being non-judgmental means to seek the viewpoint of the soul, not to allow thoughts and actions that are motivated by feelings of indignation, victimization, or superiority to another person. In the same course of thought, it would seem to be important to apply that same sort of “non-judgmental” justice to one’s self first.
It is not altogether necessary to know just why a certain experience has come my way, or whatever possessed me to make this choice or that. Non-judgmental justice allows me to see all of the benefits of living without engaging my negative emotions. It relieves me of the process of judging my actions for the purpose of being shamed or damaging my self-esteem, and allows me to seek and comprehend the positive lesson this experience offers, and to move on.
In this process, I am not relieved of the responsibility for my actions. Non-judgmental justice is justice nonetheless. When I make a mistake, it is up to me to clean it up. If my actions have harmed another in some way, it is up to me to make amends, reparations, restitution, or whatever is called for. It is not necessary to pay and pay until the offended party is satisfied that they have received their pound of flesh in return.
Non-judgmental justice gives me the opportunity to experience an unobstructed flow of intelligence and love from the Universe. It is such wisdom as comes from an understanding of the soul and how it evolves, and the application of that understanding to each situation, each difficulty or dispute.
One of the best ways to minimize conflict and dispute with others is to apply the “Golden Rule.” I insist that others treat me fairly by setting and enforcing clear boundaries, and I honor the boundaries of others. Without a reverence for the holiness of all things, all people, the world would seem to be a dangerous, alien and violent place, cold and barren, dreary and inhospitable. Reverence for life automatically brings forth patience, seeking to allow others what they need. Most importantly, living life in this way does not judge the actions of others, and responds to situations with the higher-order attributes of love, compassion and understanding.
Not that I should avoid making mistakes, but I should strive to avoid repeating mistakes already made. Making mistakes is an important and healthy part of life, and can be the basis of a working knowledge for creative solutions to similar challenges faced at future times.
A vital part of the process of forgiveness and healing is holding to a standard of justice that results in harmony and understanding. If justice in all situations is sought with the long-term perspective of benefit to the soul, the result will be powerful as well as empowering to all.