On Reading Well
Karen Swallow Prior
A Tale of Two Cities
By Charles Dickens
Do horses run on the rocky crags? Does one plow the sea with oxen? But you have turned justice into poison and the fruit of righteousness into bitterness—
Justice avoids both selflessness and selfishness. Only when one attains this virtuous mean can one be just within oneself, and within one’s community, for justice is about giving everyone his or her due: oneself, others, and God. “Love your neighbor as yourself,” Scripture admonishes (Matt. 22:39). Implicit in this command is the idea that one must love oneself and that one cannot love one’s neighbor properly without such love. One cannot love one’s neighbor properly if one loves oneself too much—or too little. In an important sense, then, the virtue of justice begins with justice toward the self.