Practice These Principles
Living the Spiritual Disciplines and Virtues in 12-Step Recovery

The Virtue of Justice

Justice is the virtue which inclines us to well-ordered and harmonious relations, giving others their due in each situation. We practice it through the discipline of restitution in Steps 8 through 10, where we seek to make amends for the harms we have caused and to mend our relationships.

These Steps focus on the remedial form of justice (fair personal interchange), the other two forms being the commercial (fair exchange of goods) and the distributive (their fair distribution). And within the remedial, they stress the reparative, where we seek to repair and restore, rather than the retributive, which seeks to exact punishment.

As a personal virtue, justice is a character trait that we practice, not something that we demand others to do. Where others have harmed us we seek to mend and repair by practicing another virtue, which is forgiveness.

In practicing justice, we make amends because we owe them to those we have harmed, not just to relieve our guilt, regret, or remorse. Though these emotions may initially move us to right action, and though we do wish to relieve them, that is not our primary purpose. 

Justice is a cardinal virtue, and as such it is inherent in a number of other virtues, so that in giving thanks, telling the truth, being faithful, and showing courtesy and respect, for instance, we are being just and giving others what is rightly owed them in a particular situation or relationship.

[Image: Bill D., AA #3, "the man in the bed."]

“Now we go out to our fellows and repair the damage done in the past.” – Big Book


“Courtesy, kindness, justice, and love are the keynotes by which we may come into harmony with practically anybody.” – 12&12

“He has shown you, Oh man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” 
– Micah 6:8 

 “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.” – Matthew 7:12

“Justice in the life and conduct of the State is possible only as first it resides in the hearts and souls of the citizens." – Plato


“Live out your life in truth and justice, tolerant of those who are neither true nor just.” – Marcus Aurelius


“Knowledge which is divorced from justice should rather be called cunning than wisdom." – Cicero


“Justice is a certain rectitude of mind whereby a man does what he ought to do in the circumstances confronting him.” – Thomas Aquinas


“Justice is the firm and continuous desire to render to everyone that which is his due.” – Justinian


“The self . . . is unjust in itself, since it makes itself the center of everything.”
– Pascal

“Justice consists in the habitual rendering to every man his lawful due.” 
– Spinoza 

“The universal law of justice is: act externally in such a way that the free use of your will is compatible with the freedom of everyone according to a universal law.” – Immanuel Kant

“Everyone who asks justice should do justice.” – Thomas Jefferson


“Justice delayed is justice denied.” – William E. Gladstone

"Justice is truth in action." – Benjamin Disraeli

“Justice that love gives is a surrender, justice that law gives is a punishment.”
– Gandhi

“In matters of truth and justice, there is no difference between large and small problems, for issues concerning the treatment of people are all the same.”
– Einstein 

“If thou wouldst seek justice, thyself must be just.” – Stephen R. Lawhead

"For to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others." – Nelson Mandela 

“Justice is the virtue that leads each person to overcome the temptation to place himself above everything and consequently to sacrifice everything to his own desires and interests.” – André Comte-Sponville

“Promptly admitting our wrongs to those we have harmed will become a habit with time, disposing us to justice, and, the more just we become, the more readily and openly will we admit to such wrongs.” – PTP


“If I keep putting off those amends I need to make . . . I may also have a self-servingly myopic view of justice, still seeing the concept in legal or social but not in spiritual terms, the province of the courts and the concern of political movements. I may fail to see that justice is very much at the core of the very spiritual and very personal discipline of restitution, and that it always begins with me.”

For more PTP passages on justice, see pp. 26, 29, 30, 31, 55. For more 12&12 passages, click on and search justice and its cognates.

For other posts on the virtues and the disciplines, please click on Practice These.