When You Want Justice {But Have More Questions Than Answers}

by Laura on March 20, 2012

I wrote last week about justice and shared a story I told my kids, over green tea in little cups at a local coffee shop. I wrote about how Matt and I expected our three little ones to be people who stand up for the person without power, to fight for the powerless kid who faces the bullies.

And I wrote that piece one morning, sitting outside on my porch, drinking in the caffeine and the inspiration. And 20 minutes later when I read it to my husband, he got tears in his eyes. And he nodded his head in agreement. He does that a lot.

But. But. Then he started asking me hard questions. {He’s been known to do that a lot, too.} Questions about what justice really looks like, how it might play out, and figuring out which injustice we personally are called to fight right now.  And we circled the issue while the coffee got cold, and suddenly, I felt like my post about the special needs boy and the stolen bike was naive and contrite. Something I might have waved a banner for 10 years ago as I raced off to fight um, somebody, but a story that now feels like it needs a list of qualifiers.

Because ushering in justice to any situation is a complicated mess.

Ask any foster parent whose had babies taken from their hands. Ask any teacher that has been advocating for the poor in a system of the smart. Ask any woman who’s suffered abuse. Ask any missionary or humanitarian volunteer who’s logged time in the epicenter of a problem.

Ask Jason Russell of Invisible Children and KONY2012 {See their responses to critiques here for a look at how complicated their fight for justice has become}.

Ushering in justice, fighting the bullies, doing the right thing {especially in the environment of another culture}, can raise more questions than it answers sometimes.

And while we do need inspirational stories and pictures to get us off the couch {and sometimes to remember why we got off in the first place}, oftentimes we the well-intentioned land ourselves in a mell-of-a-hess. 

And, so, some questions my husband asked me that morning over cold coffee, that I think worth asking you, too. Not a truckload of answers here, just a hope for some positive, honest discussion . . . .

{If you haven’t read the earlier post about injustice and the bike, take a quick second to read it.  These questions will be terribly confusing if you haven’t heard the illustration.}

1.  What if getting off the porch to fight the bullies means your family falls apart waiting for you to get back from the WWF event at driveway’s end? What if choosing to NOT step into a battle is actually fighting harder for the health of your family, your marriage, your kids?  How can you tell as a parent/spouse, how much is too much?  When the cause is taking too much center-stage?

2. What if you feel moved to fight the bully and you charge ahead, without a plan as to how to effectively fight injustice?  And then you get beat up. And the bike still gets taken. And Jacob still gets abused.  And all you needed was to wait five minutes for your dad to come downstairs and help. Or, maybe you needed to remember where those brass knuckles were or something. Is that noble?  To fly in and die on a hill that maybe you could have effectively not died on, had you just taken some effort to plan better?

3. What if there really is no way to win?  Not even to make a dent in the problem? Is it worth a trip off the porch if it costs you and your family greatly? If, realistically, there’s really no logical way to change the outcome? Is it smart to die on that hill?

4. Is justice only about the bullies getting grounded by their mothers {punishment}?  Or is justice more about Jacob being protected? Or is it both? {Check out a post by a reader Danielle here about justice and righteousness.}

5. What if in the process of trying to stand up for Jacob, I actually hurt him somehow?

6. But, on the other hand, what if I spend so much time on the porch analyzing the methods of action that I miss the opportunity to act? {Is that more noble than jumping in and making a mess of things?}

7. Should justice ever involve violence? {Writing from Uganda and calling for a nonviolent resolution, check out Michelle Perry’s response to KONY2012 here.}


And, again, no neat and tidy answers from here. Fighting for justice can be epically-complicated. 

And I realize I wouldn’t have said that five years ago. So, maybe that makes me, wiser?

Or, just cynical?

I’d love to hear your thoughts, your answers, your own questions.