The virtue of Justice


“Being good is easy, what is difficult is being just.”

Victor Hugo (1802 – 1885)

When I hear the phrase, “life is not fair” I often think of Calvin and Hobbes. Calvin complains to his dad about unfairness and his dad says;

“The world isn’t fair, Calvin.”
“I know Dad, but why isn’t it ever unfair in my [favour]?” Bill Watterson, The Essential Calvin and Hobbes: A Calvin and Hobbes Treasury

What is fairness?

Life is not fair for one of two reasons. The first is because of a problem with defining fairness. If one sees life as being unfair because you do not always get what you want or the things you think you deserve, tough luck schnook. Good fortune is different from fair.

The second reason is that many people find it difficult to treat everyone the same and that is why fairness is a strength. When a family of four has only two doughnuts (why you would do this is beyond me), the solution to fairness is simple. You cut each doughnut in half and then every member gets to have a piece and everyone’s piece is the same size (unless you cheat). It becomes harder to be fair when emotions, values and biases come into play. In the family dynamic, this is often very evident between first- and last-born children. The first child has a nursery out of a catalogue, with Pinterest worthy “Today I am one week three days and 17 hours old” special filter snaps. The last child has a mattress on the floor and for pictures, I think there is one stored somewhere in the cloud from when great-aunt Mavis came to visit. I am joking, of course, great-aunt Mavis died years ago.

Why is fairness a strength?

In this time of quarantine, I would like to encourage you to pay special attention to fairness in your living situation. Is everyone being treated the same? This is not as farfetched as you think. Like with everything, practise makes perfect. It is not so much a matter of time management as it is about mindset and behaviour. Ensuring everyone is being treated the same.

My daughter’s occupational therapist, Belinda von Wielligh, once suggested that my husband and I spend 15 minutes every night with each child one-on-one. I would spend time with our daughter doing whatever activity she picks whilst my husband would spend time with our son. After the 15 minutes, we would switch. I would like to tell you how dedicated we have been to this plan and how much we have each been enjoying it. I would like to, but you would be able to see my nose growing from right where you are sitting.

What does fairness look like?

My daughter’s occupational therapist is one of those people you marvel at. She treats everyone the same. You always feel like the most valued person in the room when you are with her and you feel so understood and supported. She never gives any indication of judgement, which is a blessing, because my daughter tells her EVERYTHING (for example, Mommy does not know how to iron – in fact, Mommy does not even know where the iron is).

She is a paragon of how inspiring but also healing, fairness can be. You watch her in action and you find yourself striving to be the same way. My husband and I honestly had every intention of doing this kids-time assignment. We were looking forward to it and had illusions of spending picture-perfect moments with our children. Naturally, it only took one miserable long day and then neither one of us were in the mood to do anything else but put the kids in bed and watch MasterChef. It has all been downhill from there. In the spirit of fairness, however, both children get put through their bedtime routine with military precision.

Not anymore. This time we are going to enhance our efforts towards fairness this week. We are going to strengthen this strength during the lockdown and we invite you to do the same.

are you fair?

Let us all use this time of isolation to build on our relationships. Not only with the people or animals living with us, but also those we are having to connect virtually with. Focus on how you are treating everyone. Are you being fair? Do you take as much interest in the life of your father-in-law as your mother-in-law? Are you showing preferential treatment to one dog over another? Are you dividing your affection equally between your goldfish? As you can tell, I know nothing about raising goldfish. I had silkworms once, and not to brag or anything, but I did not discriminate against any of them. I was disappointed in their lack of cocoon spinning equally.

Fairness after isolation

I hope you will find yourself behaving the same way towards strangers once the lockdown period is over. It does not mean you need to go out and befriend every person you meet; that would make you a weirdo. It means, treating every person as a person. Try taking a genuine interest in others. Remember, discrimination is discrimination. Full stop. It does not become okay just because you believe that a person deserves to be discriminated against. It makes you the pot calling the kettle a bigot. And with that I repeat Victor Hugo’s words to you; “Being good is easy, what is difficult is being just.”  Be the one that rises above it all, be the tolerance you crave to see in others.



The bear who needs no introduction…

… but gets one anyway.

More about the Author

Alan Alexander Milne (1882–1956), the author of the original Winnie the Pooh stories, served as a signalling officer during World War I. The horrors of the war inspired him to write positive and joyful stories of days when life was simpler.

In his autobiography It’s Too Late Now (1939), Milne dedicated a considerable part to his fascination with his ‘own beginnings’ and his need to write positive tales for adults that would enable them to break away from the reality of war and it’s consequences. Who does not want that right?

More about the stories

Now for those of you who have not read Winnie the Pooh… I do not even know what to say to you. I am shocked and saddened. No, really, I am joking, I can be tolerant. What you need to know is that there are ten stories in each of the two books. All the stories take place in a beautiful forest called the Hundred Acre Wood. The premise of the storybooks is that toys belonging to Christopher Robin come to life and experience exciting adventures together. They are also constantly caring and nurturing towards one another. The stories involve different characters, but without exception, they all include a bear named Winnie the Pooh.

Who is Pooh?

Winnie the Pooh is also known as Pooh or Edward bear. In the introduction to Winnie the Pooh, Milne explains how the name came about: Pooh was the name of a swan Christopher Robin once had, ‘or the swan had Christopher Robin, I don’t know which, when we said goodbye we took the name with us, we didn’t think the swan would want it anymore’ (Milne, 2006, p. i). The name Winnie comes from a black bear cub, Winnipeg, who had been a mascot for the Canadian Army Veterinary before ending up at the London Zoo. It was there that Milne and his son met Winnie and she inspired their imaginations. There is a great movie about Winnipeg called, A Bear Named Winnie (2004).

Winnie the Pooh loves honey and condensed milk and spends his days playing and helping his many friends. Pooh is a bear ‘of Very Little Brain’ (Milne, 2007, p. 99) yet is often the hero in the plot. The other main characters are briefly described below:

The other Characters

PIGLET is a pig. He enjoys spending time with his friends, smelling the flowers and having wonderful adventures despite being overly cautious.

CHRISTOPHER ROBIN is a human boy. Although he does not appear physically in every story, he is present by implication. The narrator tells the stories to him and the reader.

EEYORE is a pessimistic donkey. He is capable of love and kindness towards the other animals. His friends, in turn, are fond of him.

RABBIT (obviously a rabbit) enjoys taking command of situations, frequently resulting in disastrous outcomes. Rabbit is also confident and intelligent.

OWL is an intellectual, although he overestimates his intellectual abilities. The other characters like to avoid his long-winded tales.

KANGA is a Kangaroo. She is the only female character and Roo’s mother. Kanga is kind and nurturing with a level of strictness.

ROO is a joey and he is Kanga’s son. Roo is lively, curious, and rather impulsive.

TIGGER is a tiger. He is a lot like Roo, and even comes across as his older brother. Tigger is playful and impulsive, but at times exhibits traits of caution. He is also very confident.

The virtue of Justice


“There can be no daily democracy without daily citizenship.”

Ralph Nadar (1976)

What citizenship is not

Citizenship. Not one of my favourite words. Not quite as bad as “moist”, but it certainly deserves a special mention. Why do I dislike this word which should invoke feelings of patriotism, pride and solidarity? The answer is in the question. People around the world have twisted these words into armaments to bludgeon others over the head with. When I even detect a conversation is going in that direction my eyes glaze over and my mind immediately wanders off to other more pressing matters such as why is the dog covered in glitter. No, seriously, do we even have glitter in the house…?

Apparently, we HAD a pot of face paint glitter. Who knew?!

Back to citizenship

I do not have an issue with the concept of citizenship, only how it has been abused and corrupted. I want to encourage you to take back the word citizenship from the politicians and the hatemongers. Take it back and bring it into the safety of your home. Citizenship has been homeless for some time and during a pandemic of this level, the word citizenship has never been in more need of rescuing. Adopt it like you would a puppy from the pound- impulsively.

As with the puppy, the first place to start is a home inspection. What does good citizenship mean in your house? Who do you live with? Are you alone? Do you have pets? Are you living with a housemate or a partner? Do you have children? Whatever your living situation is, make sure that all living beings within your home are not only good citizens, but that you, yourself are a good citizen to live with.

so what is citizenship then?

According to research, good citizenship requires a sense of obligation towards the common good that extends beyond self-interest. In real terms, it means not being an A##H##E while we are all living in quarantine by taking everyone else’s needs and preferences into consideration, including your own. The common goal during this time is domestic harmony and preservation of sanity whilst preventing the spread of COVID-19.

an example of citizenship

I always use Winnie the Pooh as a relatable analogy to explain strengths. Imagine, living with a bear who gets stuck in ‘hunny’ jars, a pig who is afraid of his own shadow and an OCD rabbit? Those of us living with small children do not have to imagine too hard, because hell hath no fury like a toddler who wants strawberry yoghurt and you only have fruits of the valley. Similarly, those with pets know all too well the joys of the inside-outside game. For those who have not had the pleasure: this is when your pet cannot decide whether they want to be inside or outside and like a slave you are forced to continually get up and open the door.

Still these storybook characters all manage to live in perfect agreement (without chocolate – I ask you?!). They not only live together, but they thrive. Each characters accepts the other within each one’s capabilities and limitations.  No one is forced to conform and they do not direct. Well, Rabbit tries and fails hilariously (yes, I proudly have a dark sense of humour). Instead, the inhabitants of the hundred-acre wood practice the cornerstones of good citizenship, acceptance, loyalty and teamwork. I told you it is not only political. We are not discussing voting preferences or political ideologies.

are you a good citizen?

How this translate into your living environment is up to all of you living together. The key to acceptance is flexibility. You do not have to account for every second of everyone’s day. Share domestic responsibilities, and start those spring-cleaning projects or whatever. Include everyone, even your little people. Probably not reasonable to expect Fluffy to iron the laundry, but you will be surprised by how much even your children can help around the house.

Also, just a thought, if your partner packs the dishwasher in a way that will give you nightmares, go with it, because at least it gives you time to do something else. You know what I am talking about. Again, no judgement. I redecorate the Christmas tree after the children and husband go to bed. In my defense, if you hang the red balls first, you have a much clearer idea of where the gold accents need to be and you do not end up having to endure a patchy tree until January.

How to be a good citizen at home

Write down a list of what must get done (priority list), what should be done (necessity list) and what you would like to do (enjoyment list). Once you have done this allocate time to these list items accordingly. Do not fall into the trap of only doing priority items. Balance your time between all three lists. This goes for everyone. Work on your lists as a group. Keep it an inclusive and sincere discussion. Ensure everyone understands what your list is, allowing everyone their space in whatever way possible. Working together towards that common goal. That is just good citizenship. We do not want anyone being voted off the island just yet.

What happens to citizenship after isolation?

The news is full of recommendations on how you can nationally be a good citizen by staying at home, blah blah blah- I honestly hope that we do not need to discuss that point ad nauseam here as well. If you are literate enough to read my blog, you can read the World Health Organisation’s guidelines and please do. What would be nice is if you take good citizenship that one step further by regularly, DIGITALLY, of course, check in on friends who you know live alone, your grandmother (even though you know she will ask about your love life) or your in-laws just so they can see the children. Be a good citizen on your social media accounts, or WhatsApp groups; you will be surprised to see how other people will become inspired by you and start doing the same. See your positive attitude become contagious. Share your ideas here PLEASE!!!!

Well, that is enough from me for now. Tomorrow we tackle Fairness. Exciting times ahead. LOL. TTFN.

P.S. As we work on what the virtue of justice entails, please have a look at my activity section for this virtue and have fun with the project.


What are strengths and virtues?

A summary from my dissertation.

In this explanation, I do not want to bore you with too much theory. I am trying my best to keep my summary short.

Positive psychology

The field of positive psychology is filled with research that tries to define or quantify happiness. As a result researchers are asking what characteristics lead to an individual’s happiness and well-being. Most noteworthy, is the manual written by Peterson and Seligman. Their manual is all about classifying positive psychology into usable tools. Furthermore, their work includes the largest collection of research. This is why I believe my blog can be useful, because my focus is to explain this system using simple everyday analogies.

How did it start?

Pre-dating 1998, little scientific research explored the role of positive emotions and strengths in the prevention and treatment of mental health. All of this began to change when Martin Seligman became president of the American Psychological Association (Bacon, 2005).

Seligman believed psychology placed too much focus on mental health as an illness. He wanted to encourage research that explored the positive consequences that can come from negative experiences. Seligman and other positive psychology researchers set about redefining mental health in terms of ‘well-being’. What does it mean to be well? Well being is no longer just the absence of illness or dysfunction. To be well is a distinct state of existance with its own traits.

New Classification system

Hence this new line of thinking showed that character strengths are tools that promote optimal functioning. Even in the face of trauma, positive consequences were possible if strengths were utilised. However, there was still a problem of classifying strengths. This is because positive emotions are all so multi-faceted. Therefore, the manual of sanities became such an important tool. Peterson and Seligman’s classification of six virtues and twenty-four-character strengths is the most inclusive classification system in positive psychology. In addition, it provides a legitimate means of referring to strengths in a way that is measurable and therefore makes psychological well-being possible.

What does the classification system look like?

Firstly, there are the six core virtues. These virtues are;

  • Humanity (This virtue promotes altruistic pro-social behaviour)
  • Wisdom (These cognitive strengths involve gaining and applying knowledge)
  • Courage (These emotional strengths necessitate restraint to accomplish goals)
  • Justice (civic strengths lay the groundwork for a healthy community and society)
  • Transcendence (This virtue is about a search for meaning and purpose)
  • Temperance (These strengths promote a virtue of moderation).

Secondly, there are the twenty-four-character strengths that are the core ingredients to well being. Finally, the third level is the one in which habits of behaviour turn into strengths, for instance, optimism and empathy lead to kindness .

In conclusion, do not stress if all of this seems a little confusing. It will become more clear as we go through each virtue. You will see for yourself what I mean, but you are always welcome to ask questions.

P.s. Picture: Irini Simitci-Green


Dear Reader

Who am I?

Please afford me a moment to introduce myself. My name is Lizette Dohmen. I have a husband and two young children (one girl and one boy) and two adopted fur babies (one German Shepherd and one Rhodesian Ridgeback). I have a degree in Social informatics. The study of how people pursue, navigate, consume, consolidate, assimilate and convey information. I also have a Master’s degree in Psychology. Specifically early childhood development with a focus on Positive Psychology and emotional resilience.

Naturally, none of this tells you who I am. Why do we insist on giving out this kind of information as an introduction? What have I told you about myself as an individual? It is all general and impersonal. Skillfully worded, using familiar terms such as family, dogs, studies, so that you think you know me. I have not shared anything of myself with you – I have not made myself vulnerable to you. I risk nothing and, in turn, I hope that you will read my blog and share your thoughts. Does this seem fair?

Who am I really?

What if I changed my opening paragraph to include the following information? I married my high school sweetheart. We were only married a year when he had two massive heart attacks. Love of my life, and I was almost widowed at the age of 23. Should I tell you that for years I required treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder from the shock and trauma of that day.

What if I told you that my focus on Positive Psychology and early childhood development came from being a trauma counselor for a non-profit organisation? My choice to work with children was because I was told that I would never be able to have children. Seven years and multiple miscarriages later, I have two beautiful healthy babies. What if I tell you that every time I have to take my German Shepherd to the vet I feel like my ribs are bursting with pain. I worry that this time they won’t be able to treat him and the fear of losing him paralyses me? Do you see me differently now?

Who am I as a person?

Would it be different, if instead of telling you about my family, I told you about my habits and quirks? For example, I truly believe black cats are a bad omen. I hate it that my parents never gave me a second name because I always feel my ID document looks so empty. Some days, I am convinced that duck-egg blue is my favourite colour. On other days it positively must be ballet-slipper-pink.

I love chocolate bars, but cannot stand chocolate flavoured anything. Similarly, I hate bananas but love banana bread and any banana flavoured treats. I always joke that there is not enough alcohol in the world to make a conversation about golf more interesting, but one glass of wine and I am on my ear. I can watch violent movies, but if an animal or a child get hurt I cry for days. What if I tell you that I am still afraid of the dark and I still secretly sleep with a Winnie the pooh teddy bear that is exactly as old as I am and barely still holding it together? Does this make you see me differently?

Why is all of this important?

Yes, I have a degree in positive psychology but I have fears. I have hang-ups and I have had to overcome pain just like you. Some days I succeed. Other days I fail. Some days I am a great and enthusiastic mother; other days I accidentally put my underwear in the freezer (true story) and I hide in the shower just to get away from the children and the dogs.

Just like you, the real me is a complicated amalgamation of ideas, beliefs, values and perspectives that have been shaped by my life experiences and choices. I am like you. I am constantly evolving as I am confronted by new experiences, new information or conflicting information. Like you, I like to believe that all of this accumulates to consistent personal growth. I am also pretty sure that on some days that personal growth comes into question when I just do not feel like adulting.

What is my blog about?

By now I hope that you understand that this blog is not about preaching or teaching. It is not about me seeking a platform to show you how clever I think I am. Instead, my blog is here to share with you some of the theories I have learned and researched about positive psychology.

I hope that it may be useful to yourself and your family during this time of uncertainty and worldwide pandemonium. I hope that together we can share practical ideas on how to implement these theories and together we can pull each other through this crisis in a positive way. Using the tools provided by Positive Psychology can be mutually beneficial to us and those around us. Remember one thing, just like a virus, enthusiasm and a positive outlook can be equally contagious. Go out (figuratively) and infect each other with that!

Tomorrow I will start by explaining the virtue of Justice and focus specifically on the strength of citizenship. Trust me, it is not as political as it sounds, but more about this tomorrow.

In the words of Disney’s Tigger, “TTFN”. Tata for now.