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Justice As A Verb


The word “justice” is now often associated with courts, lawsuits, prosecutors and defenders, judges and juries.. We debate the meaning of justice, the functioning of the legal system, its complexities, its flaws, ambiguities, limitations, and inconsistencies. We get bombarded by the news cycle of stories of injustice, verdicts which were fair or unfair, and people who did or didn’t get the justice they deserve.

But the Stoics understood justice differently—not simply as a noun, but also as a verb. Not something we get, but something we do. Not something we demand from other people, but something we demand of ourselves. That’s why Marcus Aurelius said, “Waste no more time arguing what a good man should be. Be one.”

This is one of the key aims of Ryan Holiday’s upcoming book, Right Thing, Right Now: Good Values. Good Character. Good Deeds.—to rescue justice from its narrow legalistic confines and reestablish it as…

. . . the actions we take

. . . the choices we make

. . . the standards we hold ourselves to

. . . the way we treat people

. . . the things we care about

. . . the difference we make for people.

. . . the opportunities we accept (and turn down)

. . . the right thing, right now.

By reclaiming justice as something that we do, instead of something done to us, it becomes a stronghold in the storm, a guiding light out of the dark. By committing to doing the right thing, here and now, we create for ourselves an internal compass that guides and directs us home. That’s what justice was for Marcus, Martin Luther King Jr., Emmeline Pankhurst, Jimmy Carter, Sojourner Truth, and the other figures in Right Thing, Right Now.

It can be that for you, too.