“I was wronged!”
Injustice on a personal level, between two people, is particularly painful. Your psyche screams “Foul! That shouldn’t have happened!” But it did happen.
Your natural response is to tell somebody. You talk to a friend, or several friends, as you work through your pain. You choose people who can really appreciate your feelings and sympathize.
This sharing is helpful. You can work through the anguish, and discuss your options for action. You can begin to heal. That’s how it’s supposed to work.
The problem is, injustice is Conflict. And Conflict is News. And News will spread, rippling out from person to person. The News will be remembered, long after you have healed, and hopefully reconciled with the transgressor. Insights about the larger context of the situation, the intent of the other person, or your share of the blame, are not News. Neither is the reconciliation. While you may relay the happy news to your original confidants, the injustice lingers on in the minds of the sympathizers Out There who heard the News, breeding ill will towards the original transgressor.
So what can we do? How can we stop this?
First, if you’re sharing an injustice, ask for confidentiality. And after sharing and empathy, listen carefully to the ideas from your friends. Look for ideas that give you a path to reconciliation, not just retaliation. Listening, really listening, is very hard. When you’re in pain, hearing anything other than sympathy is difficult, but listen anyway.
Second, if you’re hearing about a personal injustice, don’t spread the News. Don’t put two and two together and make a five-alarm fire. If you want to share the News, do what any good reporter will do. Get the details. Get both sides of the story. Follow-up and see if things have improved since the original transgression. Is it still the same News?
I’ve witnessed personal injustice. I’ve experienced personal injustice and shared my pain with friends. And I’ve watched a report of a personal injustice be fanned into a wildfire. I’ll bet you can say the same.
The bad news is, there’s probably not much we can do about witnessing or experiencing injustice. It’s just Life. The good news is, if we try, we can create firebreaks around it.