By Marisa Geitner
President and C.E.O.
Recently, while studying about relational justice I came upon a quote by Jonathan Burnside: "Seeking justice means seeking wisdom, seeking community and seeking right relationships." I found it a thoughtful statement as we continue exploring the deeper ways in which we can support one another through the ups and downs that come along with our lives and the lives of those we share time with.
In this age of acceleration the world doesn't slow down for anything, let alone when bad things happen. It is often that we find ourselves, despite our best intentions, experiencing an outcome that is less than we'd hoped. Maybe that's as simple as squeezing in a few too many errands while someone waits a bit too long for a ride after baseball practice. Maybe that's having a moment of frustration where someone's behavior pushes someone they care about away -- missteps that can usually be corrected with a bit of time and a heartfelt apology.
But what happens when the outcome comes with an even greater pain? What happens when it is an outcome that causes emotional heartache, spiritual confusion, financial burden or even physical pain? Usually it wasn't the person's intention to cause hurt to another, but most often in today's society when bad things happen, our first response is to attend to the one that was hurt. We want to stop the hurting and ensure healing. We focus on restoration of that person -- their health, their dignity, their well being. In doing so, we might also find a bit of relief ourselves, believing that restoration for the victim is a part of the justice we seek even as a bystander.
Then we typically turn our sights to the one whose actions led to a less than favorable outcome and we start the second part of our justice -- the punishment, the reprimand or the directive to never do that again. Then we, as bystanders move on, hoping or maybe believing that we have made the world a better place.
In seeking justice through wisdom, community and relationship we are called to provide a bit more than that. We need to extend ourselves in offering opportunity for healing and restoration to the second victim -- the ones whose actions might have led to a poor outcome. We have to repair the relationship between each victim, offering them the opportunity to talk about what happened, look to rebuild trust and again share a relationship.
It is often that individuals who require the support of others for their most personal care are asked to simply forgive and forget when the innocent actions of another lead to an unintended, but poor outcome to them. But without relational justice, the burden on both is too great. The relationship just severs and leaves both still hurting.
I believe we are a society that seeks wisdom, values community and honors right relationship. Let's put it to practice in a way that challenges who we are and advances who we'd like to be.