By Sosamma Samuel-Burnett, J.D.
Founder/ President, G.L.O.B.A.L. Justice
Merriam-Webster chose “justice” as the word of the year for 2018. That word was searched more through their website Merriam-Webster.com than any other in that year, with an increase of 74% from the previous year’s searches.
While that may be an interesting fact for many, it should not come as a surprise to most. The world throughout 2018 was rife with news, debates, and conflicts focused on justice in many forms – racial, social, criminal, economic, etc. Global issues, political strife, and references to justice through news topics such the Mueller investigation and Kavanaugh hearings contribute to the word searches for justice, especially in the U.S.
While the word “justice” has been central in 2018, the search is for the meaning of justice. It is not clear if there is a corresponding rise in the embrace or pursuit of justice. With so many meanings and definitions of justice today, most are seeking clarity. One may be more likely to ask “what is justice?” and/or “who’s justice?” than to seek justice itself.
Interestingly, “toxic” was the word selected by Oxford Dictionaries, and “misinformation” was selected by Dictionary.com for the same year 2018. So how do these words of the year correlate with the Merriam Webster’s selection of the word “justice?” Perhaps it’s the toxic nature of segments or aspects of society and/or the misinformation coming from various sources that is driving people for definitions of and clarity for the concept of justice.
But that drive for definition and clarity on justice can also position our society for another word in 2019 – hope. As I reflect on the year that was, and the year that will be, this word keeps returning to my mind. Hope can mean a feeling of anticipation, but also can mean a feeling of trust. When many are weary of the “toxic” and “justice” seems elusive, it may be hard to anticipate or trust that there is a better future. But it is in that space of searching for justice that we can also shift our hope from the world and focus on trusting in God. It is through our faith that we can find hope and in our hope we can find justice.
Hope is essentially both the precursor and the result of seeking justice. It is through hope that we are able to endure adversity and overcome challenge. It is through hope that we are inspired and engaged to take action or make a change. And it is hope that we experience from finding justice through faith.
2018 certainly was a year of adversity, and it is likely that 2019 will have its share of challenges and conflicts as well. But no matter what the circumstances, hope tells us that there is still potential for a better day and justice says that there is a better way. Merriam Webster put it best when they placed the definition of justice into context – “a concern for justice, peace, and genuine respect for people.” That is what we are seeking when we seek justice, and that is what we can hope for in our pursuit. Indeed, 2019 may be a better year than 2018, if we choose to put our hope in justice and our trust in God.
The views and opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and do not imply endorsement by G.L.O.B.A.L. Justice. We are a faith-based, nonpartisan organization that seeks to extend the conversation about justice with a posture of dignity and respect.