It’s not easy to sacrifice your anger, your sense of being wronged.- Piper Kerman, Orange is the New Black
Merriam-Webster’s Thesaurus lists only 2 synonyms but 5 antonyms for the word justice.
justice: inequity, unfairness, wrong, bias, discrimination.
Apparently, we are far more interested in describing things that are unfair than fair.
Marci, a friend and former colleague calls me with a fairness dilemma of her own.
“Should I ignore her or write her a big f* you message?” she asks, referring to a social media request from Worst Boss Ever, the shady manager we found ourselves working for nearly a decade ago. I let out a long sigh and realize what my friend wants is justice. I get it. But Marci, my classy, professional, educated friend is not one to stoop to the virtual middle finger, even towards someone who probably deserves it. And I remind her of that. Marci is silent for a moment and I realize she was hoping I would give her the green light. I offer then that Worst Boss Ever will likely never be able to work anywhere else because the carnage of every person she screwed over professionally is likely spread all over our small industry. And we have a good laugh.
I can’t help but wonder why we react so strongly to perceived injustice? Why, when we feel wronged, do we want, NEED consequences – someone to take responsibility? To say they are sorry. Whatever. We want fairness dammit! I can’t help but wonder what we do in this in between space, when justice can’t be found? How do we cope when there is no justice?
Later that day I get to thinking about my own experience with injustice when it comes to dating. I’m reminded when, a few years ago, one of my friends started dating my ex. Right after we broke up. Without telling me.
At the time, I had the feeling in my gut that my anger and my outrage at Friend and Ex were my heart’s cry out for justice at breaking girl code: you just don’t date your friends’ exes. At least not until a year post-breakup.
Still, I found myself stumbling away from the friendship, with a lingering sense of humiliation and complete and total injustice. But as the days passed into weeks and eventually months, I found myself questioning my own justified anger at the situation.
Then while helping Marci move, I relished in the stamping and crushing of flattening boxes as I replayed the situation over and over in my mind. Was my anger and judgment about Ex and ex Friend in some way a buffer from anger I had towards myself? About having friends with bad boundaries? About being blind to what was happening? Was it a way I could deflect my own part in the demise of the relationship? And friendship? Was it not about them at all?
In a world where we love to sort things – holding celebrities up on pedestals and soaking it up when they come crashing down, is it possible we are missing what’s right in front of us? Ourselves? Demonizing someone else, after all, takes the focus off ourselves for a moment, or at least long enough to avoid looking into our own lives and acknowledging that perhaps, intentional or not, we have occasionally caused some bigger injustice in someone else. I wonder if in protecting our ego, we create moral hierarchies. “Well, I may have done blah, but at least I didn’t do blah blah blah!”
Standing atop my heap of flattened boxes, hands on my hips, I shake my head and catch my breath. Marci glances down at the pile then back up at me, “I think they’re flat mama.” Our eyes meet for a moment then we burst out laughing, leaving us bent over, hands on our knees to catch our breath.
“Come on,” she tells me, as she puts her arm around me and we walk towards her car. “I’ll buy you a drink.” I smile and sigh. She adds jokingly, “And I won’t even tell you about the date I had with Ex last night.”
I swat at her playfully, just as she dodges out of the way and my arm smacks a trash can instead. “Ow!” We laugh. She doesn’t say anything but I know we are thinking the same thing: justice.