Despite these flaws, the yearning for fairness is strong, even though our flawed perspectives frequently keep us from a truly fair appraisal of the situation. In fact, the interplay between a yearning for fairness and our distorted personal perceptions is precisely what this next part is all about. This type of thinking will play a prominent role in the psychology of those who seek revenge, condemnation, or punishment. When just-world thinking is combined with condemnation, the result is a psychological tar pit for those who feel wronged:
1. We always want to think we're being fair and reasonable towards others, and we find the thought of unfairness repugnant.
2. Therefore, our brain will - without our knowledge - skew the facts to make our punishment or condemnation of another seem fair and reasonable, even if it isn't.
3. Thus we distort the crime to fit the punishment, rather than the punishment the crime. This cooking of the facts requires us to adopt catastrophic and irrational beliefs about how bad this wrong really was. It forces the person to amplify and exaggerate their own suffering in order to justify and excuse the punishment and suffering they exact. Serious consequences can only be justified through catastrophic beliefs about an event. Therefore, vengeance, condemnation, and punishment of the other does nothing but solidify the victim in their own suffering.
To illustrate this point, let's use a real-life example. Let's say 5-year-old Bobby is playing with his uncle. He likes Uncle Jim, and the two have known and interacted with each other since Bobby was a baby. But on this occasion, something different would happen. While sitting on his lap, Uncle Jim gets a little bit too touchy feely in the wrong areas. He starts playing with Bobby's penis outside of his clothing. He soon moves to inside the clothing in a full-blown session of fondling.
Like most such cases, Bobby is a little uncomfortable, because he knows his mom has told him that those touches are bad touches. But he's also intrigued by the sensation he is feeling. Curious and confused, he asks his mother about it. Mom calls the police, and Bobbie is now thrust into the legal system.
Bobby lives in Florida, one of the many states which have adopted Jessica's Law, perhaps the most ill-thought-out legislation of modern time. The law mandates a minimum sentence of 25 years to life in prison for any sexual act with a child; the same punishment doled out for first-degree murder. Bobby's 22-year-old Uncle is convicted, sentenced to 45 years to life in prison, and the Buddy he once played with and loved to have come over will now die in. It's far more likely that double-murderers will be paroled sooner.
Here's the mental conundrum for Bobby: This internal desire for fairness and equal treatment kicks in. There's a conflict to Bobby's just-world hypothesis. Following such an outcome, Bobby must now (subconsciously) hyper-inflate his own experience and suffering to account for a sense of fairness. After all, such extreme measures could only be justified by an act so horrible that it’s practically death itself. So Bobby is now forced to form horrendous interpretations about what happened. Perhaps a part of him died on that day too? Did his Uncle murder his innocence? Whatever that is, it must be awfully important. He must be forever handicapped. He's now damaged goods. His subconscious sets out to find rational justification for the punishment that was inflicted on his Uncle.
The other alternative is that Bobby be torn apart and raped by guilt for the rest of his life. This is a regular occurrence too. Whenever he does something wrong, he will be forced to conclude that he is deserving of equal treatment. After all, he will do things to other people that will upset them far more than his Uncle’s action upset him in that one instance, so his caretakers have unknowingly but eternally damned the child they claimed to be protecting. The thirst to condemn and punish leads one down a dark road in their own psychology. When Jesus advised his followers to turn the other cheek, that statement wasn't merely about passivism. It's because punishment has psychological consequences for the giver as well.