Skip to main content
Center for Action and Contemplation
Restorative Justice
Restorative Justice

Restorative Justice: Weekly Summary

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Restorative Justice

Saturday, September 12, 2020
Summary: Sunday, September 6—Friday, September 11, 2020

Our best self wants to restore relationships, and not just blame or punish. This is the “economy of grace” and an operative idea of restorative justice. (Sunday)

Jesus, who represents God, usually transforms people at the moments when they most hate themselves, when they most feel shame or guilt, or want to punish themselves. (Monday)

Restorative justice requires, at minimum, that we address the harms and needs of those harmed, hold those causing harm accountable to “put right” those harms, and involve both of these parties as well as relevant communities in this process. —Howard Zehr (Tuesday)

Restorative justice is a justice that seeks not to punish, but to heal. —Fania E. Davis (Wednesday)

When human beings admit to one another “the exact nature of our wrongs,” as the Twelve Steps recommend, we invariably have a human and humanizing encounter that deeply enriches both sides. (Thursday)

My work with the poor and the incarcerated has persuaded me that the opposite of poverty is not wealth; the opposite of poverty is justice. —Bryan Stevenson (Friday)


Practice: A Restorative Way of Life

I believe the intent of the sacrament of Reconciliation in the Catholic Church is restorative justice—returning the individual to God, to their faith community, and to their best selves. Asking people to “confess” what they have gotten wrong in their relationships is an important first step, although sadly, it became the one we clergy focused on. True repair and restoration take much more than a bit of penance and a handful of Hail Marys, not that those aren’t fine places to start. I hope that we Christians will find the courage to take the example of Jesus seriously and think about how we can make all the justice we seek restorative, especially for the “least of these.”

Howard Zehr, whose work we shared earlier this week, has written some of the foundational texts on restorative justice, including Changing Lenses: Restorative Justice for Our Times. In the 25th anniversary edition of this text, Zehr includes practices to help us live restorative justice as a way of life.

Ten Ways to Live Restoratively 

  1. Take relationships seriously, envisioning yourself in an interconnected web of people, institutions, and the environment.
  2. Try to be aware of the impact—potential as well as actual—of your actions on others and the environment.
  3. When your actions negatively impact others, take responsibility by acknowledging and seeking to repair the harm—even when you could probably get away with avoiding or denying it.
  4. Treat everyone respectfully, even those you don’t expect to encounter again, even those you feel don’t deserve it, even those who have harmed or offended you or others.
  5. Involve those affected by a decision, as much as possible, in the decision-making process.
  6. View the conflicts and harms in your life as opportunities.
  7. Listen, deeply and compassionately, to others, seeking to understand even if you don’t agree with them. (Think about who you want to be in the latter situation rather than just being right.)
  8. Engage in dialogue with others, even when what is being said is difficult, remaining open to learning from them and the encounter.
  9. Be cautious about imposing your “truths” and views on other people and situations.
  10. Sensitively confront everyday injustices including sexism, racism, and classism [and other examples of systemic and intersectional injustice].

Howard Zehr, Changing Lenses: Restorative Justice for Our Times (Herald Press: ©1990, 2015), 257—258.

For Further Study:
The Big Book of Restorative Justice: Four Classic Justice and Peacebuilding Books in One Volume (Good Books: 2015). Collected titles: Howard Zehr, The Little Book of Restorative Justice; Kay Pranis, The Little Book of Circle Processes; Allan MacRae and Howard Zehr, The Little Book of Family Group Conferences; Lorraine Stutzman Amstutz, The Little Book of Victim Offender Conferencing.

Fania E. Davis, The Little Book of Race and Restorative Justice: Black Lives, Healing, and US Social Transformation (Good Books: 2019).

Elaine Enns and Ched Myers, Ambassadors of Reconciliation, Volume 2: Diverse Christian Practices of Restorative Justice and Peacemaking (Orbis Books: 2009).

Justice as Healing: Indigenous Ways, ed. Wanda D. McCaslin (Living Justice Press: 2005).

Ched Myers and Elaine Enns, Ambassadors of Reconciliation, Volume 1: New Testament Reflections on Restorative Justice and Peacemaking (Orbis Books: 2009).

Richard Rohr, Breathing Under Water: Spirituality and the Twelve Steps (Franciscan Media: 2011).

Richard Rohr: Essential Teachings on Love, ed. Joelle Chase and Judy Traeger (Orbis Books: 2018).

Bryan Stevenson, Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption (Spiegel and Grau: 2014).

Howard Zehr, The Little Book of Restorative Justice: Revised and Updated (Good Books: 2015).

Image credit: What is Ubuntu 01 (detail), Gretchen Andrew, 2018.
Inspiration for this week’s banner image: Many cultures have a word that represents this notion of the centrality of relationships. For the Maori, it is communicated by whakapapa; for the Navajo, hozho; for many Africans, the Bantu word ubuntu; for Tibetan Buddhists, tendrel. Although the specific meanings of these words vary, they communicate a similar message: all things are connected to each other in a web of relationships. —Howard Zehr
Navigate by Date

This year’s theme

A candle being lit

Radical Resilience

We live in a world on fire. This year the Daily Meditations will explore contemplation as a way to build Radical Resilience so we can stand in solidarity with the world without burning up or burning out. The path ahead may be challenging, but we can walk it together.

The archives

Explore the Daily Meditations

Explore past meditations and annual themes by browsing the Daily Meditations archive. Explore by topic or use the search bar to find wisdom from specific teachers.

Join our email community

Sign-up to receive the Daily Meditations, featuring reflections on the wisdom and practices of the Christian contemplative tradition.

Hidden Fields

Find out about upcoming courses, registration dates, and new online courses.
Our theme this year is Radical Resilience. How do we tend our inner flame so we can stand in solidarity with the world without burning up or out? Meditations are emailed every day of the week, including the Weekly Summary on Saturday. Each week builds on previous topics, but you can join at any time.
In a world of fault lines and fractures, how do we expand our sense of self to include love, healing, and forgiveness—not just for ourselves or those like us, but for all? This monthly email features wisdom and stories from the emerging Christian contemplative movement. Join spiritual seekers from around the world and discover your place in the Great Story Line connecting us all in the One Great Life. Conspirare. Breathe with us.