When we give equal weight to individual choice and context, we see that the choice to harm another usually signifies underlying brokenness screaming to be dealt with. If we stop with holding the offender accountable, and thus only consider the offender’s choice, the underlying brokenness too often goes unaddressed. If, on the other hand, we heal the underlying brokenness, harmful acts will far less common.
When harm has occurred, healing the underlying brokenness is the goal of unitive justice. It sees the harm not as a problem to be solved but as an opportunity for personal growth, healing relationships and creating a stronger community, the result that is achieved when underlying brokenness is healed.
Even the restorative processes that see the goal as holding the offender accountable often address the underlying brokenness, not by design, but because so many of the barriers to doing so that exist in the criminal courts have been removed. This permits information about context to emerge and be considered along with individual choice. It then becomes apparent that the underlying brokenness is the root cause that must be healed if people are to be safe.
So why not make healing the underlying brokenness the goal? This eliminates the problem that arises when several people in the circle believe they are the victims of the people sitting across from them, while those across from them see themselves as the victims of their accusers. The restorative processes that see the goal as healing the underlying brokenness that is reflected in this us-versus-them scenario are likely to be consistent with unitive justice.