A friend once told me that I have an “excessive sense of justice.”  I’m not certain I would agree, but I think justice is incredibly important and I like to think that I pursue it.  A college professor gave me an incorrect final grade and I e-mailed him, visited him during office hours the following semester, and then sent a follow up e-mail, all in the attempt to get him to lower my grade to what it should be.  To me, it was natural and expected that I would go to such lengths to get a worse grade.  I didn’t deserve that grade and I wanted to get what I deserved.

While I will never claim to be perfect, for as long as I can remember I’ve had a very strong moral compass.  It doesn’t mean it is always right, but I think I have a keen sense of justice.  (Others who know me, though, may see more readily the areas where I am not just.)  It meant that I took note of how long my mom spent with my older sister when she was being home-schooled, and I insisted that she spend the exact same amount of time with me.  

One time I took a train, but the platform it arrived at was not a place where you could purchase a ticket.  So I waited for the conductor to come through and explain why I didn’t have a ticket.  As nervous as I was to explain the situation, I was frustrated when he never came.  I was resolved to buy a reverse ticket when we arrived from that last station back to the first, so that they could have the same amount of money for the fare.  When we got there, the electronic ticket booths were not working and the in-person ticket lines were long and nobody was even working them.  I was convinced that I had pursued the matter far enough, but to ease any remaining scrupulosity, I donated the fare amount at the next church we stopped to see.

I like justice.  I’m a fan of rules, for the most part.  And I don’t know that if I was pulled over for a speeding ticket that I could even bring myself to argue it, if I was in fact speeding.  I broke the law and the a ticket is the just response.

Yet for all my declarations of liking justice, sometimes my view of it is skewed.  Part of working to be a saint means that unjust things will happen to us and we have to respond with patience and love.  That is where the need for growth is found in me.  So quickly I can become upset when I am driving and someone cuts me off, honks at me for apparently no reason, or refuses to use their blinker.  “Unjust!” my mind screams.  I am quick to keep track of things that are inconsequential: how many times did I unload the dishwasher, who gets the mail more, who is recognized for something I also do, how many times have I refrained from a sharp word when the other never seems to, and the list goes on and on.

The other day someone was explaining to me why they are unhappy with their job.  They said that they work, work, work and the other people don’t work, they watch TV, or they take a lot of breaks.  But every time this person stops for a little break, they get yelled at or reprimanded.  I couldn’t help but wonder what the other person’s story would be.  Would they consider this person to be lazy?  or always wasting time?  Yet I am much slower to consider the other person’s perspective when I am in the situation.  Maybe I do more of something and don’t notice that the person I am frustrated with silently takes care of something else.   Maybe it is alright that it isn’t always fair and even because it makes me grow in generosity and self-control.

I am quick to make excuses for myself, but much slower to consider how others might have encountered difficulties.  I want my students to always be understanding when I am running late and yet I want my students to always be on time if I am.  The ideal of justice, I love.  But when I am truthful, living out justice in all times and places, is something I am far from mastering.

God alone can be truly just.  He knows the circumstances and the situations.  Only He can rightly judge.  I just find myself wanting to usurp His role.  Yet even with His perfect justice, He blends it with His perfect mercy.  Thankfully, He does not give us what is our due or what we deserve.  In strict justice, I merit Hell.  In His mercy, I can be saved.  We should be thankful that the Lord does not give us what we truly deserve.

In thanksgiving for that mercy, I can extend it to those I encounter.  I can strive to stop the mental comparison count and the concern for everything being even.  Instead, I can embrace a spirit of generosity and magnanimity.  In the pursuit of holiness, I can accept injustice without making it a monumental problem.  Humility pairs nicely with this pursuit, even if it doesn’t pair nicely with me.  I can strive for true humility in the face of circumstances that seem less than just.  While striving to fight for justice for myself and others, I can grow to accept the unjust as a path to experiencing the heart of Christ.  Jesus unjustly suffered ridicule, rejected, suffering, and death.  Anything that I experience is far less significant.

This awful, beautiful prayer can help kickstart my process.  And, if you are anything like me, maybe yours, too.

Litany of Humility
(by Cardinal Merry del Val)
O Jesus! meek and humble of heart, Hear me.
From the desire of being esteemed,
Deliver me, Jesus.
From the desire of being loved…
From the desire of being extolled …
From the desire of being honored …
From the desire of being praised …
From the desire of being preferred to others…
From the desire of being consulted …
From the desire of being approved …
From the fear of being humiliated …
From the fear of being despised…
From the fear of suffering rebukes …
From the fear of being calumniated …
From the fear of being forgotten …
From the fear of being ridiculed …
From the fear of being wronged …
From the fear of being suspected …

That others may be loved more than I,
Jesus, grant me the grace to desire it.
That others may be esteemed more than I …
That, in the opinion of the world,
others may increase and I may decrease …
That others may be chosen and I set aside …
That others may be praised and I unnoticed …
That others may be preferred to me in everything…
That others may become holier than I, provided that I may become as holy as I should…

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