The virtue of Justice


“The pessimist complains about the wind. The optimist expects it to change. The leader adjusts the sails.”
John Maxwell

Okay, this is the last strength in the virtue of justice and as far as I am concerned the most important one. If we lead by example, if we live the change we want to see around us, then we will influence change. Positivity is contagious.  I think I have mentioned this point before.

Who are your leaders?

Now at the risk of tarnishing someone’s street cred, I am willing to guess that whether you loved or hated school, you had that one favourite teacher who got your grades up. Whether you were a rebel with or without a cause, you still had a favourite aunt or uncle you respected, even emulated. Even now in a world where the term BFF (Best Friend Forever for those pretending not to know) is reserved for self-obsessed teenagers I know you have one. You have that one friend who just inspires you more than anyone else and whose opinion matters to you.

Some people even have an awesome boss. These are rare unicorn people, but they do exist. If you have a mug that says “best boss ever”, do not congratulate yourself just yet. Your staff can’t exactly buy you a mug that says Dou… you know what?  Never mind. Let us focus on leadership as a strength and see whether you have earned your mug. If you are working for a not so nice boss right now, send him an anonymous link to my blog, and I will see what I can do for you. No promises. As the joke goes, how many psychologists does it take to change a light bulb? None, but the light bulb must want to change. Yes, I know, comedy is not my strength, but more on that later.

Qualities of Good leaders

Think about what qualities that teacher, aunt or uncle, friend or boss have. What was it about them that makes them stand out from the rest?  Do you see a pattern emerge? Let me try my hand at mind-reading. Did they tend to be more reasonable than unreasonable in their approaches?  Their personality style was more flexible than dogmatic and were they energetic in their mannerisms. They noticed and acknowledged your strengths and they were appreciative of the effort. Does not mean they were not assertive, goalless or asinine. It also does not mean that they were liked by all. Likability is not a synonym for leadership.

Why is leadership so important during this time of isolation, because a good leader gets everyone else to act in ways that achieve a mutually beneficial goal. Remember the goals we set out right at the beginning? Good leadership is how you get there. If you are familiar with Winnie the Pooh then you will know Christopher Robin is an excellent leader. All the toys jump at the opportunity to join him in any ‘expoitation’ of his choosing. Why? He allows them the space to be themselves and do things their own way, because that way, they all reach the desired result together. Good leadership promotes good citizenship and good leaders are fair. See, it is all related.

Are you a good leader?

Use this time to reflect on who you are living with. What personalities do they have? How do they match and differ from you? What are their strengths? How do your strengths compensate for their weaknesses and how do their strengths compensate for your weaknesses? Get to know one another on a new level. Make conversations meaningful and do the same to those you are virtually contacting. 

Forget the expression too many chefs spoil the broth. You are not making soup anyway, or maybe you are, but the analogy is still not valid. You are a human being with wonderful flaws. Embrace them by using the other wonderfully flawed people around you to fill in the gaps. If you are parents or grandparents, use this time to teach children about great leadership. To those who are alone, now is your chance to be that aunt, uncle or friend that someone else will see as a great leader one day. If you are a boss or a manager, well then you have no excuse. Get to know your staff on a deeper level. Find their strengths and use them. Know when you don’t know and find the person who does.

Why is leadership a strength?

Let me leave you with this example of what I mean. My husband, featured with his friend Alan Paterson in the picture above, is one of those people who LOVES people. I mean he is just a collar away from being a golden retriever.  He knows a lot about different topics because he listens and retains what other people say to him. He genuinely cares about people and what they say. They motivate him. If you stick my husband in a back office to do coding all day or paperwork, you will slowly but surely dampen his natural enthusiasm because you are not using his strength. Place him among people and let him teach as much as he learns and you will extract a remarkable quality of work out of him.

I hope that now as we move on to our new virtue and new strengths, you will continue to practice citizenship, fairness and good leadership at home.  I also hope that you are having fun with the Virtue of Justice Activity and posting the results of your efforts on my blog.

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 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.