Justice and the Rotary Four-Way Test by Lindsey Pointer

I carry a coin with the Rotary Four-Way Test printed on it that was a gift from the Fort Collins club with me every day in my purse. I like having it with me. The question are such a clear way to check my words and actions when I feel lost, uncertain, and especially when I feel hurt or angry.

  1. Is it the truth?
  2. Is it Fair to all concerned?
  3. Will it build Goodwill and Better Friendships?
  4. Will it be Beneficial to all concerned?

When people experience hurt or anger, there in a natural tendency to want to hit back. I think this is why our societal justice responses have so often tended towards retributive harming, also known as “punishment.” Hitting back can feel like the only possible response in a moment of fear and furry. But as Mahatma Gandhi said, “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.”

The retributive justice response also doesn’t align with the Four-Way Test. The threat of severe punishment often deters those who have committed a wrongdoing from taking responsibility, thus preventing truth-telling. The severity of the punishment often depends on factors such as race, gender, religion, socio-economic class, and citizenship status, making conventional justice responses consistently unfair. The adversarial structure of our justice system often drives a further wedge between victim, offender, their families and the wider community, further fragmenting relationships and preventing goodwill. Finally, often all involved parties end up experiencing additional harm as a result of participating in the justice process.

In contrast, restorative justice offers a justice response that aligns with the requirement and principles of the Four-Way Test. Restorative justice promotes responsibility-taking, fair and people-centred procedures, the reparation of relationships, and a way of responding to harm without causing further harm.


Lindsey Pointer is a restorative practices facilitator, trainer and researcher and is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Restorative Justice at Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand with support from a Rotary Global Grant Scholarship and the Fulbright Program from the U.S. State Department.

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