"The world stands in more need of justice that charity, and indeed it is the want of justice that renders charity everywhere so necessary."
Benjamin Rush to John Adams. 1811
"Justice is simply giving what is due, to whom it is due, when it is due.... It is easy to distinguish between just and unjust (people). The just think about what they owe to others. The unjust think about what others owe to them. The just consider how to pay what they owe, while the unjust avoid paying."
Boyhood and Beyond: Bob Schultz
These principles are not only applicable to to money but are mindsets for life that children, teenagers, parents and adults all practice.
The points and ideas in this post are heavily influenced by the philosophy of Charlotte Mason.
Who am I to show justice to?
We are to show justice, to give what is due, to all people.
Parents, teachers, rulers and governments because they have authority over us and it is their right and our duty.
Brothers, sisters, friends, neighbours and work mates because they are our equals.
Likewise to all people who work for us and to all whose opinions and ways of life are different from our own.
We need to "get our lives in focus and see things as they are." "Ourselves": Charlotte Mason.
That our rights are the same as other people's and no more. That what we are owed from others is just the same as what they are owed from us and no more.
What does a just mindset look like?
- a teenagers with a part time job working a full 5 hours for 5 hours pay.
- a child honouring and respecting their parents.
- a team member playing the game with all their effort.
- a student giving the hours of work required by the teacher.
- a parent providing the physical, emotional and mental needs to their
- a teenager driving the family car and using it in a respectful manner.
- a person honouring their promise to return the call or get onto
something today, by doing the deed.
- a family showing their appreciation for the time and effort the cook and
the cleaner in the house, invests in their lives.
Martin Luther King gave many speeches throughout America in the 1960's, calling for justice to be done, true freedom to be given, not just to the African American community but for the minority peoples throughout the United States. His famous speech "I Have a Dream" is worth listening to, especially for children over the age of 12. King's word choice and emotion clearly communicate and convict the listener, by opening our mind, to see what everyone owes to one another. This man has no bias, no axe to grind, no want to see his own ethnicity pushed forward at the expense of others. These are marks of justice.
William Wilberforce in Britain, also stood for justice. His years of work in the British parliament to bring about the changes in law which would lead to the abolition of the slave trade, came from Wilberforce's personal conviction that all people were owed a decent and respectable life with freedom. This Sunday, July 29, is the 179th anniversary of Wilberforce's death. As a family we plan to watch the movie "Amazing Grace"
What does an unjust mindset look like?
- a person who holds to the saying 'Never do today what you can put off
till tomorrow'. They postpone, put-off, shirk work, procrastinate, use
delay tactics, 'Not yet' they say or generally handle doing things at a
- a student whose work is careless, sloppy, done slip shod in style, or a
- a person who borrows something from another, but doesn't return it, or
returns the object in an unsuitable condition.
- a child who often gets upset thinking about what they didn't get. They
constantly complain that things are not fair.
- a person who is always at the front of the line for food or usually grabs
the best car parks.
- a person who indulges in their newspaper, coffee, game, music...
instead of completing their obligations.
- a person who is on a very comfortable salary but will not pay off their
student study loan.
- a person who sees situations such as the recent evacuations in fire-
threatened Colorado, as an opportunity to loot and help themselves to
- a person's comments that find fault with a small defect in another's
comments or actions.
The image at the top of this post, is Botticelli's painting "Calumny". Calumny is the speaking of words that injure others. I am guilty of this, along with many of the above. This is why I want to quote the explanation of this painting as given in Charlotte Mason's book "Ourselves".
".... Botticelli .... puts in the foreground a lady young and fair(Calumny), with a mantle of heavenly blue over a white robe of innocence, but which reveals through slashes the black garment below. She looks composed and drops her eyes as if in regret, whilst in her right hand she drags forward, by the hair of his head, the naked and prostrate figure of Innocence. ....
On either hand are two other beautiful maidens, clothed in fair robes, apparently dressing the hair of Calumny, in reality whispering in her ears. The one is Insidiousness, who by soft persuasive words makes the lies of Calumny look like the truth; and the other is Envy, fair also, for envy of others always takes the guise of fairness and justice to ourselves.
Holding the left wrist of Calumny is the dark cowled figure of Treachery, who stretches out his hand to King Midas upon his throne in order to demand a hearing. His long ears show the character of this king, for falsehood and all her crew, Calumny, Envy, and all the rest are in the end folly. Suspicion whispers into the one and Prejudice in to the other of the long ears of Midas, and he leans his ear now to the one and now to the other, so that their words are the only sounds that can reach him. ....
Quite in the background stands the naked Truth, pure and beautiful, averting her eyes from the evil spectacle and raising her hand to heaven, sure of a hearing there; and between her and tortured Innocence stands the dark figure of Remorse. It would be well to keep a copy of this picture before our eyes ... because it should keep us in mind of many things - that the whole brood of Falsehood, Calumny, Envy, Folly, Prejudice, Suspicion come to us in pleasant places and by insidious ways - that they torture the innocent and drive ... Truth away by the din of many voices in our ears."
Some points to help teach children to want to live a life of justice.
1. Wide and wise reading, both by children and to children. Reading about our own country, other countries, all sorts of occupations, amusements, people from different cultures and time periods of history, people in our world today, along with various other areas of knowledge, helps to feed a mind, giving it plenty from which it can form just opinions.
The material must challenge the reader to think for themselves, not to have it all given to them. They need to think it out, work it out for themselves. The word 'opinion' literally means 'a thinking'.
2. Use everyday experiences to discuss what IS fair, the personal rights of others, helping children to understand consequences of what they say and do.
eg. When dirt is walked into the house from outside because someone didn't wipe their feet outside the door, explain this means someone is inconvenienced and has to clean it up.
The neglect to contact family or a friend to say you will be late, leads to waiting around, worry and getting irritated. Discuss these normal happenings in the family.
3. To 'think', "we must read, mark, learn and inwardly digest; must listen and consider." "Ourselves":Charlotte Mason. This is an occupation which takes a life time of practice, so give them space and time to think.
4. Avoid taking the quick route of gaining opinions - picking them up ready-made from those around us. Family discussions can help here, and simply encouraging on-going point number 3.
5. Learn to identify deceptive or unsound arguments. Popular ideas can be unsound, so they too must be thoroughly examined before we take them onboard. Have family discussions.
6. Before forming an opinion about anyone in an important position or place of power, we need to gain a proper understanding of all that being in this role involves.
7. Once we arrive at our opinions , we should hold them with both a feeling of shyness because they have resulted from our thinking, but also we should hold them firmly because these thoughts are our very own property which is the result of our pondering. The wise way to hold opinions is to be open enough to the fact that another view could be sounder than our own.
"It is the chief part of Justice to think Just thoughts about the matters that come before us, and the best and wisest people are those who have brought their minds to bear upon the largest number of subjects, and have learned to think Just thoughts about them all. It is a comfort to know that Justice ... is always at hand to weigh the opinion we allow ourselves to take up." "Ourselves":Charlotte Mason.
THISWEEKWITHTHEKIDS~ start with a visit to the library and borrow some books on varied subjects, which demand the kids do some thinking. Pick up on the things that happen this week which you could turn into conversations that explain the rights of others and the effects and consequences of what they say and do on others. Give positive feedback to your kids for their behaviour that indicated a Just mindset.