Do we want justice or judgement?
Most people want justice–at least for themselves. Human beings are continually judging situations, themselves and others. Often we confuse the two. Children have a strong sense of justice. When someone does something wrong, they insist on punishment or recompense. Deep inside, we all tend to agree, even if we don’t acknowledge it. We all want judgement pronounced, so that we can “see justice done”. In mediation we strive to help participants put aside existing judgements to try and find what all see as a just situation. Sounds a bit confusing?
True peace is not merely the absence of tension: it is the presence of justice.
Martin Luther King
Welcoming me to the primary school for a mediation, the head was interrupted by a five-year-old, wanting immediate action.
“Sir, Sir, Poppy and Toby got kicked in the face by Alex!”
Overhearing this, instinctively judgement kicked in. I imagined a wild child, lashing out in anger or fear. How would the head handle this one?
The experienced head calmly asked: “What happened?”
“Well, he kicked the ball really hard and it hit Poppy and then Toby!”
“And then what?”
“Oh, he said he was sorry.”
Further investigation revealed that Alex had been guilty of nothing more than enthusiasm.
We are all quick to judge others and to condemn their actions, often based on very little information.
Ignorance, allied with power, is the most ferocious enemy justice can have.
James A. Baldwin
In the case of the head, his experience meant that justice was delivered as well as judgement.
What makes us judge others?
Judging others is a response to our own situation and emotions as much as about reality. Jonathan Haidt’s book The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are divided by Politics and Religion is fascinating–the NY Times review give an overview if you haven’t time to read the whole book For a less academic approach read 5 Reasons Why Judging Others is About You.
But we instinctively judge–how can we get round this?
Justice or judgement–some helpful too
In mediation, we learn many tools that work well in everyday life (when we remember to use them). Two of these are particularly helpful in ensuring that justice is delivered. Both tools are based on curiousity.
Get the story straight
As the experienced head realised, first impressions don’t provide a sound basis for judgement. Be curious about what actually happened, what it meant to those involved and what you don’t know.
Most misunderstandings in the world could be avoided if people would simply take the time to ask “what else could this mean?”
Try and sort out the facts and the emotions. Here’s an exercise you can download to help get your story straight. A5 Story Exercise
In a brief video, Thom Bond, founder of the New York Centre for NonViolent Communication talks about transforming judgement and seeing the underlying needs. In mediation, participants are helped to see their own and others needs underlying their judgements, rather than the judgement. Thinking about how needs can be met generates solutions and liberation from dependence on others to meet our needs. A6 Liberate Yourself
So justice or judgement–it’s up to you. Just remember
You cannot influence someone when you are judging them.