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 moral latitude.
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 daily basis.
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, poverty, starvation., 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 and injustice.
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 Click, and 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 reform.
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 today.
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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Editor’s Note: The LifeTrek Readers’ Forum contains selections from the comments and materials sent in each week by the readers of LifeTrek Provisions. They do not necessarily reflect the perspective of LifeTrek Coaching International. To submit your comment, use our Feedback Formor Email Bob.
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 running/cycling friends.
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.
May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.
Bob Tschannen-Moran, MCC, BCC
President, LifeTrek Coaching International, www.LifeTrekCoaching.com
CEO & Co-Founder, Center for School Transformation, www.SchoolTransformation.com
Immediate Past President, International Association of Coaching, www.CertifiedCoach.org
Author, Evocative Coaching: Transforming Schools One Conversation at a Time, Online Retailers
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