Sunday’s Wisdom #196: On the Limits of Justice

“Ya din’t kill those men t’heal anythin’. Be a trap t’start thinkin’ that way.”
– Mol, Ordination
By Daniel Ford

I just stumbled onto the Paladin trilogy by Daniel Ford, and you may expect a pretty glowing review of the first book quite soon. 🙂 Not least of the reasons I like it are quotes like this and the circumstances surrounding them.

At this point in the story, we’ve seen the main protagonist, Allystaire, come upon a ruined, deserted village, find a surviving young girl named Mol, follow the trail of the bandits/slavers who burned it and carried off nearly the entire surviving population, rescue said survivors, and lead them back home. Oh, and he killed all the slavers, nearly every one, in a glorious, terrifying slaughter. But now comes the hard part: burying the dead and helping the survivors move on.

Allystaire is, at this moment, wondering what he could possibly do to help these people heal after such a tragedy. They all lost dear loved ones, so many bodies that they need an entire field to lay them to rest in a mass grave. The pain of that loss is enormous, and Allystaire is lamenting how little good his slaughter of the bandits seems to have done. He feels no pity for the men he killed, they being thieves, slavers, rapists, and murderers, but their deaths have healed nothing.

That’s when Mol tells him this, and she is absolutely right.

Killing the slavers may have been about justice for the crimes they committed, and saving the people they took, and protecting all of their future victims, but it was not about healing.

Killing people heals nothing.

They can be as evil and deserving of death as you can imagine, but the pain and injustices they have inflicted are already over and done. It is a thing of the past now, impossible to change. The harm has been done. It cannot be undone, and certainly not by doing further harm.

The healing of one person will never be accomplished through the harming of another.

People in pain often make the mistake of thinking that their pain will go away if they can just remove its source. But it is a brutal truth is that removing the culprit will accomplish nothing of the sort. It’s a trap to try and heal anything through further violence. Like quicksand, once that mentality has hold of you, all you’ll accomplish with your thrashing about is hastening your descent into a suffocating darkness.

Justice does many things, things which are vital to the survival of civilization, but it does not heal. It’s a sword, not a medical kit.

Not to diminish its importance, of course. One simply needs to keep in mind, it’s only one part of the equation.

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