Provision #359: Pursue Justice
by Bob Tschannen-Moran
Although compassion is necessary and indispensable, it's not sufficient in our
world today. We also need to pursue the systemic reforms that make for global
justice and minimize the need for compassion. That may sound like an impossible
task, but the value of justice comes to us on good authority with doable
strategies for success.
In recent weeks, I saw two different bumper stickers. The first one said, "No
Jesus, No Peace. Know Jesus, Know Peace." The second one said, "No Justice, No
Peace. Know Justice, Know Peace."
My guess is that the people driving those cars have very different values. The
former is probably part of what sociologists now describe as "Red America," the
"roughly half of the U.S. population that tends toward conservative values, the
Republican Party, gun ownership, church as the preferred way to express faith,
and moral absolutes." The latter is probably part of "Blue America," the other
half of the U.S. population that tends toward liberal values, the Democratic
Party, gun control, spirituality as the preferred way to express faith, and
The 50/50 split led a few years ago to the most contested presidential election
in U.S. history, sending George W. Bush to the White House by judicial action.
2004 may witness a repeat performance, only this time some pollsters are
predicting that "Red America" may win the popular vote yet lose the White House
due to the quirkiness of the Electoral College.
It's unfortunate that people are so divided. National unity is always hard to
come by; deep value-based divisions across the mainstream make it even more
difficult. Especially since they are reflected and writ large on the world
stage. From the streets of Baghdad to the boardrooms and picket lines of
industry, we see value-based conflicts painfully playing themselves out on a
Behind the tragedy of these conflicts is an underlying travesty of
misunderstanding. To read the two bumper stickers, you would think that Jesus
and Justice were at odds with each other. But nothing could be further from the
truth, when it comes to Jesus or any of the other great religions and cultures
of the world. Apart from love, Jesus had far more to say about Justice than
about any other matter.
That's because the religions and cultures of the world agree on the importance
of justice as not only an underlying principle of civilized society but also as
a reflection of core values that cut to the quick of human dignity,
potentiality, and transcendency. If there is anything that sets human beings
apart from other creatures, both as individuals and as cultures, it's our
ability to perceive and pursue justice.
This is, in fact, an important part of the maturation process. I have written
before about the difference between "enrage" and "outrage." At birth, we are
incapable of "outrage" because we have not developed a sense of justice (we are,
however, quite capable of being "enraged," as new parents soon discover). Over
time, we become versed in such basic concepts as fairness, equality, freedom,
innocence, and human rights.
Once those concepts are developed, "outrage" is soon to follow. There is,
unfortunately, far too little justice in the world. Injustice is headline news,
updated continuously throughout the day. Scanning the
ticker, I note prisoner abuse, war crimes, slavery, exploitation, unemployment,
assassinations, terrorist bombings, landmines, money laundering, hate crimes, and evidence tampering
to mention only a few. It seems there is no end to human wickedness
So what's a person to do? The Parliament of the World's Religions and cultures,
meeting in Chicago in 1993, suggested a two-prong approach: pursue compassion in
your dealings with individuals and justice in your dealings with society.
I wrote about the former two weeks ago
received many positive replies. Compassion may not square with many movements
and philosophies in the world today, but the readers of LifeTrek Provisions
appear to be a compassionate bunch. And that's a good thing because personal
compassion underlies global justice. If we don't care about the suffering of
people, then we are never going to work for either immediate relief or systemic
The latter is, of course, much more difficult to achieve. It's one thing to give
one thirsty person a cup of clean water. It's another thing to give all persons
everywhere a continuous supply of clean water. Systemic reforms are tough; but
that doesn't make them pointless to pursue. On the contrary, real progress can
be made when people come from and rally around the common value of justice.
This perspective was reflected in the second commitment of the Parliament of the
World's Religions and cultures:
"All over the world we find endless hunger, deficiency, and need," they observe.
"Millions of people are without work; millions are exploited by poor wages,
forced to the edges of society, with their possibilities for the future
destroyed, while at the same time others live with immense prosperity. Not only
individuals, but especially unjust institutions and structures are responsible
for these tragedies."
Recognizing that "individual good deeds and assistance projects, indispensable
though they be, are insufficient" the Parliament called for the participation of
all states and international organizations in the effort to build a new world
order with just economic institutions. To this end, the Parliament lifted up
five frameworks and strategies:
- Play Fair. "In the great ancient religious and ethical traditions of humankind we find
the directive: You shall not steal! Or in positive terms: Deal honestly and
fairly! The consequences of this ancient directive are clear for global justice: No
one has the right to rob or dispossess in any way whatsoever any other person or
the commonweal. Further, no one has the right to use her or his possessions
without concern for the needs of society and Earth."
- Minimize Extremes. "Where extreme poverty reigns, helplessness and
despair spread, and theft occurs again and again for the sake of survival. Where
power and wealth are accumulated ruthlessly, feelings of envy, resentment, and
deadly hatred and rebellion inevitably well up in the disadvantaged and
marginalized. This leads to a vicious circle of violence and counter-violence.
An unquenchable greed for money, prestige, and consumption must give way to
moderation and modesty."
- Teach Citizenship. "Young people must learn at home and in school that property, limited though
it may be, carries with it an obligation, and that its uses should at the same
time serve the common good. Only thus can a just economic order be built up."
- Restructure Economics. "A solution must be sought for the debt
crisis and the poverty of the dissolving Second World, and even more the Third
World. In the developed
countries, a distinction must be made between necessary and limitless
consumption, between socially beneficial and non-beneficial uses of property,
between justified and unjustified uses of natural resources, and between a
profit-only and a socially beneficial and ecologically oriented market economy.
Even the developing nations must search their national consciences."
- Cultivate Consideration. "We must utilize economic and political power for service to humanity instead of
misusing it in ruthless battles for domination. We must develop a spirit of
compassion with those who suffer, with special care for the children, the aged,
the poor, the disabled, the refugees, and the lonely.
We must cultivate mutual respect and consideration, so as to reach a reasonable
balance of interests, instead of thinking only of unlimited power and
unavoidable competitive struggles."
If you are looking for a place to stand in the development of your own core
values, whether you come from the "Red" or "Blue" side of the fence, then
economic justice is a good place to start. It is a shared value that impacts
both faith and society. It forces us to evaluate not only our own lives and
lifestyles but also the policies and positions that make sense in the world
This applies to one and all, and especially to those who control the wheels of
commerce and industry. Here is where the rubber meets the road, as
private-sector partners play their not-so-invisible hand along with nations and
international organizations in fashioning the future.
What kind of future do you want? I, for one, want a future based more upon
justice and peace than the world is today.
Coaching Inquiries: What does justice have to do with your core values? Do you
work to minimize or maximize extremes between the haves and the have-nots? How
could your life and work become more of a witness for justice and peace?
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LifeTrek Readers' Forum (selected feedback from the past week)
Editor's Note: The LifeTrek Readers' Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent
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submit your comment, use our Feedback Form or
Congratulations on completing the Big Sur Marathon!!! I sent your report and
photos to my good friend who owns the Big Sur River Inn and is very involved in
the marathon. This is what she wrote back: "Thanks so much for passing that
on...it was wonderful to read and, as the Music Director, really great to see so
many pics of musicians...Please pass my thanks on to Bob." Thanks for your
LifeTrek Provisions • I enjoy reading them.
What an awesome Provision on the Big Sur marathon! I forwarded this to all my
On Wednesday morning I will have my left knee replaced. After hearing how you
experienced the last Marathon, I am lifted up in knowing that my journey will be
easier than yours, especially when doing all the exercising that it will take to
be able to walk again without assistance. Thanks for your great perseverance and
looking at all the joy that you found in the very difficult landscape of the Big
Sur. It gives me courage.
I thought I'd take a moment to say how much I enjoy your "Provision" articles.
I, unknowingly, sat in the same audience last November at the ICF Annual
Meeting, listening to Dr. Pearsall, and had some of the same insights and
affirmations about the heart. You summarized him succinctly and beautifully. I
don't think I could have done that. I also smiled as I read your Marathon
stories. I run Grandma's half marathon each year with my husband and another
couple friend(s). Running makes for such wonderful life analogies. Finally, when
I read of a "great cloud of witnesses" lifting you up, I truly smiled. I suspect
we have the same goal in life. One of which is to BE a great witness. I look
forward to a time when we can talk at length.
I read your e-letter faithfully. I have been focused on my own coaching shift,
and with a coach out of Boston, am now able to say I am making progress! I
wanted to tell you that I love how you pour YOU into the picture. I am learning
that each of us is our own best marketing tool, and your running is both a draw
and a metaphor for coaching, in general. I read you episode with your last
marathon with a mixture of envy and heartache. I have a chronic hip injury that
flares up whenever I run more that 6-7 miles. I was training for a marathon,
when I discovered this unknown result of an accident, and just can't get beyond
it, without extreme bursitis. So I loved hearing about your marathon, trials and
tribulations and all. • Top
May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.
Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC
President, LifeTrek Coaching International,
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformation,
Immediate Past President, International Association of Coaching,
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a Time,
Address: 121 Will Scarlet Lane, Williamsburg, VA 23185-5043
Phone: (757) 345-3452 •
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