The People vs. O.J. Simspon has been on television recently and I have to admit that while I love a good courtroom drama, I have not watched it. I hear it’s excellent and I may choose to binge-watch it at some point, but I remember being so angered by the entire thing the first time I’m not sure I could stomach it a second time. But with all the buzz about this show, I have thought a lot about that trial and similar trials that have occurred since and and struck by how difficult the concept of justice truly is.
The problem is that justice looks completely different depending on which side of the issue you reside on. Think about it. If your son or daughter is accused of something – let’s say something terrible like a cold-blooded murder – it would be difficult for you to believe your child was capable of such an act unless they were under duress or there were extenuating circumstances. You might feel that justice would be served if your child were found not-guilty or if the charges were reduced and the sentence light whereas the opposing side – the side that lost a someone close to them – would feel that justice would only be served if your child were to be given a life sentence or even the death penalty.
It’s all a matter of perspective.
I believe in our justice system. I truly believe that we need rules and those rules need to be upheld by a justice system in order to maintain a society that is humane and civil. I believe people need to be punished for their wrongs and have even sought assistance within the justice system myself, but there are some things that the justice system cannot provide retribution for. Most significantly, justice cannot heal injuries to the heart.
This month, April, is child abuse prevention month. I have been reading a number of posts and articles about abuse and what it has done to alter the lives of those affected and it breaks my heart.
I, like many of the writers I have been following on the subject, was a victim of abuse as a child.I have been there – I know how hard it is to look in the mirror and see something other than a used piece of meat. To this day, I have a difficult time accepting compliments because in my past, a compliment was typically tied to some really ugly strings. But I have worked very, very hard to overcome the obstacles that past abuse caused me to build.
There are not many people that know my entire story, but for those that do, they are often shocked that I do not and have not sought what they would consider justice. From their outside perspective, they would love to go pound on the door of each of these individuals homes and make them somehow pay for what was done to me.While I appreciate the outrage these people feel on my behalf, I have pointedly not chosen to do this.
Now granted, when I was younger, I probably would have liked someone to come racing in on a white steed, sword swinging to behead my personal offenders…
…or something less Disney-esque…
…but through the years I have come to a place where I believe fully that justice is not for me to seek for these past wrongs. I know that probably sounds crazy to you and in reading the stories I have read about those who have suffered abuse, many would probably assume I haven’t “dealt with” the pain I suffered. There are many who get some level of healing by confronting their abusers and for them, I say “huzzah!” but for me, this is not the road I have chosen.
It might have been easier had I chosen that road many years ago. Instead, I wandered through times of playing the victim, being angry at the world, and throwing myself in the more and more dangerous situations because I felt I didn’t deserve any better. ButI thankfully came out the other side and in so doing, I realized several things about myself and my beliefs.
First, I am not a vengeful person. The reality is that regardless of how badly I treat someone that abused me in one form or another, I cannot get back the innocence that was lost or the repair the damage that was created. Even if I were to do them exactly what they did to me the only thing that would be broken would be my sense of peace for harming someone else.
Second, and perhaps more importantly, I believe that if I focus on trying to seek retribution for wrongs done to me – regardless of how big or small they may be – I am allowing that person to injure me again and again. I am allowing that person to keep a space in my mind and my heart that they do not deserve to have. Worse, because I am allowing negative people to reside in my heart, that allows less space for those who love me to be. Why on earth would I want to reduce the amount someone could love me today because of something that was done to me years ago?
Third, I believe that my God -the only truly objective entity – can determine what justice needs to be provided in all situations and I fully trust He will take care of those things when the time comes. It is not my job at this point in my life to seek “justice”. My job is not to be bitter about my past, but to choose peace, joy and truth.
The funny thing is, in seeking these things, I actually do receive a form of justice.
My justice is found in the fact that those people who hurt me didn’t win. I was not destroyed or beaten. I am not bitter and I am not angry. If they were to come into my life again for some reason, while I would certainly keep my distance as needed, I would treat these people with grace and mercy.
I’m not saying this form of justice is easy, but I can say, at least from my perspective, it is much more rewarding than all other options.