Healthy Relationships: Justice vs. Mercy (Part 2 of 4)
Greetings and welcome to my post. For this month, I want to focus on this intentional question: Do you want to pursue justice in solving problems or do you want to pursue mercy and grace. When problems come up in a relationship, is it your strategy and focus to try to find ways to seek justice and truth of how to solve relationship problems or is it your intention to try to focus on providing grace and mercy to the person and problem?
The biggest challenge for those people who want to pursue justice when it comes to addressing problems or people is the way in which they feel conditions need to be in place in order for justice to be served. So if I steal your car, justice says I want my car back and you need to receive consequences and make wrong right by paying me back not only by returning my car but also having additional consequences placed on me. Stealing a car is one thing; a spouse or close friend telling me that I need to pay because I hurt you is another thing.
When your spouse or best friend or close family member hurts you and does something wrong, do you view this injury through the lens of justice where someone has to pay and you place conditions on them? Justice and conditions go together but they can go together in an unhealthy way. The person who has been injured and hurt wants justice done and they will look over at their spouse and observe them to see if they can be trustworthy and will place conditions on them. As a result, love becomes conditional; trust becomes conditional, intimacy becomes conditional.
Relationships become unhealthy when we start to place conditions on someone. Conditions say this: Well, I will love you if you do this and if you don’t do that. Conditions say my love for you has to be earned, my trust to you has to be earned, once you not only pay for the consequences of hurting me I know sit in the judges chair and I have the authority to observe and put conditions on you to see if you will obey and do it my way or if you will not comply or obey to my conditions.
At the root of conditional love and trust is this attitude: What is in it for me? Conditional love is about proving you can love me, looking for ways to see if the other person can please the hurting person, help the hurting person, and meet the expectations and conditions I have placed on you for me. Justice is all about me. What can you do for and to me to meet what I expect so that you are responsible to fix or help cure my hurt by performing or doing certain things as conditions that I expect from you. Justice is about performing, pleasing, earning, and expecting the other person to meet my conditions.
It is almost like you say to the one who has hurt you: you have to walk on eggshells around me and you have to walk on some type of tightrope like being in the circus. Now get up there on the tightrope and do the right thing and don’t slip or fall of the tight rope because if you do, I will not catch you but instead I will condemn you and be punitive that you have not yet done it right. The ‘it’ maybe living up to this conditions and the other person is watching, observing and testing you to see if you can meet my expectations and conditions.
It addition, if you unintentional hurt the other person, the hurting person may start to think that it is intentional and they start to look for evidence that this person does not like or love them. They look for clues or cue’s to validate their thinking that aha, there he or she goes again, I knew that I could not trust them! The hurting person looks for ways to connect some dots to come up with some formula that leads to evidence and conclusion this person is not living up to my conditions. The sad part is that the one who hurt may not even know this is going on with the other person and then they get blindsided by the one who is hurt and not even know they have hurt them. Usually the one how gets hurts grows silent, concludes the one hurting them does not care, and rarely says anything about the hurt at the time. They just quietly lick their wounds and protect themselves from being rejected or abandoned and come up with this false conclusion: I had better pull away from you first before you hurt and abandon me again.
As you can tell, the person you hurt you then concludes, oh, I get it. When I am good and right and please and perform up to your conditions, then I gain your love and pass the test. But boy oh boy, If I fail to live up to these conditions, than that means I better not slip off the tight rope, I had better walk the line, and I better do it right as I fear not meeting your conditions. Therefore the person who hurts you falls into this idea: I guess I have to straighten up, I am in the Army now, and I had better march according to your ways and do what you please so Sargent so and so does not yell, get mad, and sit in the position of authority judging you and observing you that you are walking the line.
When unhealthy relationships has the intention of applying justice to the other person and to the other person, than the relationship shifts love to fairness, from acceptance to conditions, and from freedom to control. Justice is looking for ways to control so that the other person is walking the line and you, the conditional controlling person is looking for evidence that you are repairing the relationship my way and doing it my way. I define the conditions and I define the justice and I determine if you have fulfilled the consequences so that I may now be ready to love and trust you again. And when the patterns happens in unhealthy relationships, this only leads to mistrust, suspiciousness, no freedom, and ongoing pressure in the relationship to perform to the standards that justice demands. And this will never work. Thanks for reading.