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The Need for Justice


Explanations > Needs > The Need for Justice

Need | Example | Related to | Discussion |  So what?




We all have a need for justice when we are wronged or when we see others are wronged. When this need is stimulated, we may become very vocal and active, complaining about the perpetrator and seeking to have them punished or otherwise have justice served.

The need for justice increases with the severity of the wrong that is done. Small injustices we may overlook. Major injustices result in us becoming highly emotional and can consume our thinking.


A father feels his son has been neglected by a teacher in school. He marches into the head teacher's office, demanding that the teacher be sacked.

A woman finds that her husband has been having an affair. She empties their joint savings, cuts up his clothes and leaves him.

Related to


Part of Related to
Control Fairness, Conformity, Equality



What makes an action 'wrong' such that justice is needed? Often, this is the breaking of values or laws, which we consider to be inviolable rules. The perceived need for justice then arises out of the outrage that is felt.

In seeking a sense of control, we deem that others should obey the same rules that we follow. When they do not, we feel a sense of unfairness and resentment. To rebalance the situation, we literally feel justified in seeking justice. This may include getting compensation in some form or punishing the perpetrator, seeking to make them feel bad just as they have made you feel bad.

The need for justice can be seen played out as fiction and fantasy in dramas and movies, where heroes and superheroes dispense summary justice in ways that are often outside the law. We empathize with such characters as they play out what we would perhaps like to do ourselves but which we do not do due to our self-control or fear of reprisals or punishment.

In civilized society, we have a judicial system who dispenses justice on our behalf. This, when done well, will mollify our outrage and help us to feel safe. When this fails us, we feel even greater distress and outrage. In reality, law courts are not there to create justice -- their purpose is solely to ensure that the law is followed. Justice comes from the creation of laws and ensuring these are followed and transgressions are fairly treated. Unsurprisingly, the legal profession have fretted for a very long time as to exactly what justice is and is not.

So what?

Understand how people seek justice and avoid becoming their target by never breaking the critical rules in ways that will anger them. In persuading others, you may provoke their sense of justice. This is a method used by politicians, terrorists and others who seek to arouse others to join them in their cause.

See also

Four Types of Justice, Values

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