Society Needs More Than Justice

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It has been said that one of the chief virtues of the state is justice. Rightly so.

Justice is primary to common good and to the smooth running of society because it regulates the excesses of individual interests by incorporating, recognizing, and upholding the rights of others as well. In the distribution and access to natures’ as well as society’s beatitudes, it affords people the right of receiving what is their due. This is fairness. It is equity. Every person in society is entitled to the benefits couched in the common good. Egoistic appropriation of these benefits to the extent it prevents others from having their own rightful share results to evil, lack of peace and other social problems.

But is justice sufficient? We all know that a family built and run only on the basis of the virtue of justice is likely not going to be a happy home. Reason being that justice often wears a garb of officialness. It is dispassionate, unaffectionate and straight-faced. In most cases, it does not take pains to look into the gray areas of human needs and struggles. It follows the stipulations of the law, doles out its dividends based on “paperwork”. And since the family is the organized nucleus of society, a society built only on the principles of justice may not be the best one to live in. I would not want to live in that society.

I recently read a quotation from a saint and it really impressed me. I found in it the necessary support-virtue to the virtue of justice for a happy society. For there to be a peaceful society and a place of joy and happiness, we need more than simple justice. We need love/charity as well. If I will say, we need the “justice of charity”.

Hear the saint himself: “Be convinced that justice alone is never enough to solve the great problems of mankind […]. Charity must penetrate and accompany justice because it sweetens and deifies everything: ‘God is love’ (1 Jn 4:16). Our motive in everything we do should be the Love of God, which makes it easier for us to love our neighbour and which purifies and raises all earthly loves on to a higher level […]. Charity, which is like a generous overflowing of justice, demands first of all the fulfilment of one’s duty. The way to start is to be just; the next step is to do what is equitable […]; but in order to love, great refinement is required, and much thoughfulness, and respect, and kindliness” (St Josemaría Escrivá, Friends of God, 172–3).

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