On the occasion of my 37th anniversary

As I went to sleep last night, I resolved to write a post this morning in celebration of Nancy, my loving wife and friend, and our marriage. Yet, as I sit to write this morning, I realize that my celebration can bring haunting regrets to the minds of others.

And so, while I count my blessings — and they are many, I want to pen a few words to those who have suffered in relationships.

1. All relationships have tough passages.

And many, unfortunately, don’t survive. But in those that do, one element emerges consistently. The individuals involved never lose sight of their friendship. It may be stretched and it may be strained. In fact, if may be so stressed that it never is the same again. But the friendship remains.

2. The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence — and it has to be cut more often.

Everything good in life requires maintenance. If your past relationships have suffered, look first to learn from the experience. Don’t be hard on yourself. Just be honest. And if you find yourself a little envious of others in their relationships, remember, they have to work intentionally for their apparent bliss.

3. Sometimes, it’s just not within your control.

I’ve had friends come to me and say, “What could I have done differently?” And while there’s always room to improve, sometimes you just can’t do enough. The relationship simply isn’t a fit — or at least not in the way you desire. And sometimes the other person simply can’t invest in the relationship to the extent needed. If that happens, it’s natural to mourn your loss. But investing in wholesome ways in other relationships is the best way to restore your life.

4. The best friendships evolve.

I’m certain there are exceptions. Yet, as I look around, the most solid friendships and marriages have gained strength and momentum slowly. They certainly have good times to point to. But more often, they are rock-solid because of the troubles that have been experienced, weathered, and worked-through. These things take time.

And finally . . .

Nancy and I pray for happiness for each and every one of you. Our marriage is far from perfect. From my view, that’s primarily because I am far from perfect. But today, on my 37th anniversary, I am blessed to say that I am married to my best friend. And I am blessed.

 

And justice prevails . . .

I have to admit, I turned on CNN as soon as I received the newsflash on my phone.

The jury in the Casey Anthony trial was coming in with a verdict!

Moments later, millions of us watched as Ms. Anthony was found not guilty of all of the felony charges against her.  The four misdemeanors are largely insignificant at this point. With time already served, she will probably be free on probation immediately after her sentencing hearing.

Now I’m not writing to give my opinion on whether or not the jury was right. I honestly don’t know. In fact, I have an aversion to following cases that the media hypes to a frenzy and don’t know enough about the case to form an opinion.

What I am wanting to highlight is the feeling we all get when we watch justice in action.

If you believed Casey Anthony was innocent in the murder of her two year old daughter, Caylee, then you’re feeling pretty good about justice today.  However, if you’re one of the hundreds or thousands who have shared their opinion that Ms. Anthony is guilty, you may be thinking that this is a case of injustice. You point to a flawed system, a bad judge, biased jurors, a brilliant defense, or an inept prosecution team.

Justice prevailed in that court room in Orlando. Justice is a system that requires clear winners and losers. Regardless of whether you agree or disagree with the verdict, justice was done. Unless you were one of the jurors, your opinion doesn’t count.

The judge and the lawyers watched the system closely and followed very technical rules so that justice would be done. Jurors were watched closely and their lives were controlled and disrupted for weeks so that justice would be done. The laws that govern criminal trials were carefully crafted so that justice would be done.

My point is this:

A society that relies only on a system of justice to make things right
is rarely satisfied.

A justice system is a necessary element for order in our lives.  The tools of justice must be employed to guarantee our personal rights and for our personal protection.

But justice isn’t enough.

We must model and teach personal responsibility. We must build a desire in our hearts to love others and do right things. We must not lose sight of our hope that this world can be a better place.

There has to be more than justice for those moments when we believe that justice has failed.  For while justice is a great tool, it cannot ultimately satisfy all of our needs.

What fills the gap?

In the coming weeks, I’ll be writing more on this topic.

 

 

The problem with “social justice”, part 5

This series of posts was inspired by the strong debate over the phrase “social justice.” Political conservatives view social justice as a redistribution of wealth intent on destroying personal initiative. Liberals counter that social justice is a necessary exercise because those who “have” show no inclination to help those who have not.

photo courtesy of Constantin Jurcut

That context left me thinking about the phrase and how much energy is expended defending the two ends of the continuum.

Most people I know — conservative and liberal — are in favor of helping those who are in need. And most people I know prefer a method of providing that allows those who give to have some discretion in guiding their philanthropy.

The problem, they say, is that people just refuse to do enough and, as a result, the less fortunate have had their rights diminished. Thus, we must vigorously pursue “social justice” to force the world into “doing the right thing.” When force is used, however, the “right thing” is more properly phrased as “the thing I believe to be right.”

That led me to assert the following statements in previous posts:

The problem with social justice is that it is based on justice.

The concept of justice as understood in modern culture is essentially self-centered.

Love, not justice, must be the foundation for addressing the problems of the world.

Yet, realistically, people aren’t reacting quickly or compassionately enough to stem the tide of hunger, disease, and atrocities that rises so quickly and routinely in our world. Thus, I made this statement:

Even though addressing social justice issues through the machine of justice is flawed, it is a necessary exercise while the world struggles to find a better way.

You may be asking, “Then why write this series of articles? What was the point?”

The point is this:

We should never give up on humanity. We must continue looking for ways to inspire and motivate right action — even when it is not legislated or demanded.

The model for peace I have been teaching for over a decade equates peace as being an equal balance of justice and mercy.  Just having one or the other is not workable. A corollary would be a model for love — where perfect love in community exists as a result of a perfect balance of social justice and “social mercy.”

In truth, it is the sense of “social mercy” that inspires those most adamantly pursuing “social justice.” Or at least I think it is. Unfortunately, the sometimes radical language of social justice without the equally radical language of social mercy inspires a competitive environment that defeats a spirit of love.

The theory of “social mercy” is not that difficult to grasp. Simply put, it is a willingness . . .

A willingness to take care of others . . .

A willingness to give others the potential to succeed . . .

A willingness to release our fears about the trappings of prestige and power . . .

A willingness balanced with social justice that naturally and gracefully places value on children, women and men as the creation of a God who loves.

The courts and armies enforce social justice. The kindness and will of caring individuals nurture social mercy.

The development of social mercy will require a shift in our priorities and a recalibration of our values. Neither of these can be legislated or mandated by even the most benevolent of dictators or legislatures. Social mercy will emerge as a societal quality when we have walked its path with our children, stopping along the way to bind the wounds of our enemies and to feed our neighbors.

Social justice isn’t the long-term answer. A competitive game only emphasizes the need for winners and losers. Our only hope is to develop our capacity for social mercy. And that capacity is built one person at a time.

I hope you will look for and join a social mercy community. I hope to turn more attention to this important quest in the near future.  Please share your ideas on ways this might be encouraged.

Love in Community = Social Justice + Social Mercy.

Become a leader in the social mercy movement.

The problem with “social justice”, part 2

Is there really a problem with “social justice?”

In part 1 of this series, I suggested that:

The problem with social justice is that it is based on justice.

Obviously, the important question to pursue is “What is justice?” By definition, “justice” is:

a: the quality of being just, impartial, or fair
b(1)
: the principle or ideal of just dealing or right action (2): conformity to this principle or ideal : righteousness
c: the quality of conforming to law
(http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/justice)

What could be more right than justice? Being impartial? Being fair?

Justice, when approached purely, is a divine gift and a blessing. The pure approach, however, requires its champion to take personal advancement or protection out of the equation. Pure justice is fueled with the good of others as its only motivation.

Unfortunately, the way that we individually determine what justice looks like is through our own particular lens.

What would be fair when applied to me?  What are my rights? Once I have settled those egocentric “truths,” I must decide whether I am then willing to “share” my rights with all others.

The concept of justice as understood in modern culture is essentially self-centered.

Troublesome idea, isn’t it? And unattractive for those of us who have carried justice as the banner for our desire to help others. However, even this egocentric approach can be a blessing if we ground it in an essential truth we’ll look at next time.