The Road to Restorative Justice

How are we to deal with negative behaviour? How are we to view people who are enemies or even just strangers? When confronted by the negative or strange behaviour, our human tendency is to protect ourselves either by lashing out or by withdrawing - fight or flight. But Jesus calls us to act with the freedom of the children of God, which reveals itself in love.

We are to disarm people by generosity.

When fearful, we tend to define ourselves in opposition to other people. When this happens it becomes so easy to boost our self-esteem by putting others down. If, rather, we define ourselves in relation to God, recognising that we are God’s beloved, acting with love will be our only option.

This certainly does not mean we allow bad behaviour – that is unloving. Parents, teachers, employers, friends know that discipline and confrontation are integral to true human growth. On the level of our society, the notion of ‘Restorative Justice’ expresses the vision that Jesus presents. In this way of dealing with criminals, the wrong doer is confronted by his or her victims with the intention of helping them all to heal from the wrong that has been done. This is not a soft option for dealing with evil and injustice. Rather it is the tougher option: attempting to get a person whose moral sense is faulty to face the consequences of their wrong actions is difficult. Ever since God confronted Adam and Eve in the garden, our default position when faced with our own wrong doing is to blame someone or something else. ‘Restorative Justice’ treats all people with dignity and respect. It offers the hope, which, with some people, can seem the impossible: hope, that grace and healing can come out of wrong doing.

- Sr. Kim Harris

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