Restorative Justice: Healing the Heart

October 16, 2012

mending a broken heart  As a graduate student at Holy Names University in Oakland, I’ve been part of many wisdom circles.  One of the most intense circles was this weekend when our course of study was restorative justice which supports victims in taking an active role in the healing process, while offenders are encouraged to take responsibility for their actions, to repair the harm they’ve done—by apologizing.

Ericka Huggins told us her restorative justice story and how it supported her healing and that of the offender.  In 1969, her husband was gunned down at the age of 21 at UCLA Campbell Hall.  He left behind their three-week old infant.  “I wanted to throw myself into the casket with my husband, I was so grief stricken,” said Huggins.

After many years, she began a correspondence with the man responsible for her husband’s death and eventually, they met in San Quentin State Prison with a facilitator and entered into a victim/offender dialogue.  Huggins said she wanted to understand what it was like at the scene of the crime and the offender was able to offer her this closure.

“Resentment is like drinking poison and then waiting for your enemy to die,” someone said in the wisdom circle in response to Huggins’ heart-wrenching story of forgiveness.

How does this story apply to the world of business?  Perhaps one way is by offering a new method to structure conflict resolution—restorative justice.   If there are some unresolved hurts that are causing your organization to suffer, it’s time to bring both parties into the room and allow them to air out their grievances.  Thomas Berry, cultural historian and ecotheologian said it best, “we must reinvent what it means to be human.”  As the paradigm shifts away from the traditional workplace, something new and fresh must replace it.  I can help your organization by facilitating this process of restorative justice.

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