Giving up a complaint or legal case

When to give up

When trying to use the law for social change, knowing when to move on is a key skill. We must all cultivate the ability to decide that continuing isn’t the right choice, in this particular circumstance.

Deciding when to give up on righting a wrong is hard. Sometimes, this can mean that a very large part of your capacity is taking up trying to achieve something which may not be achievable. Often, giving up becomes harder the longer you have pursued the issue, the more intensively you’ve pursued it and the more grievous the wrong was.

Justice done – or not

Giving up doesn’t mean ‘justice has been done’ or that you weren’t wronged. It means you have accepted that, within our current deeply unjust world, it’s not a good use of your own limited capacity to pursue this specific injustice. The systems may be set against you, or you just don’t have the support you need, or it is negatively affecting your mental/physical health, or all of these. Of course, it’s also possible that you’re wrong, but this is unlikely. Stopping pursuing something doesn’t mean you’re accepting it was okay.

(Along the same lines: winning/going through the whole of a process, particularly a legal one, doesn’t mean that ‘justice has been done’ necessarily, particularly when the systems issues that created it remain.)

Why we’re writing about ‘giving up’

Here at Reasonable Access, we like to see stopping focus on something as a good thing: it frees up your focus for different things.

Some examples of situations where no longer pursuing a complaint or case might include if:

  • You don’t think much about other things.
  • The case has become a very big part of your life.
  • It feels like the case is a problem which you, and you alone, are concerned about – maybe your focus on it is much much bigger than other peoples engagement.
  • Dealing with the case is negatively affecting your physical or mental health.
  • You have tried many avenues to addressing the problem, and none of them have helped.
  • There is a risk to a wider legal principle, making it harder for other people to use the law in future.
  • People close to you find it difficult when you talk about it or you find yourself talking about little else.
  • Dealing with the other side in the complaint becomes damaging, toxic and too physically or emotionally demanding
  • Financial risks increase with no good way to mitigate them.

Other issues

Sometimes it isn’t the case or the problem but your own life circumstances which change the sensibleness of continuing:

  • You have less time maybe due to a new job or change in family circumstance
  • Other campaigns or issues need to take priority
  • Challenges such as a pandemic, bereavement, job-loss
  • Your personal capacity changes, maybe due to change in impairment impact or detriment to your mental health
  • Who is to blame for discrimination

    It is great when we pursue issues, get a good result and achieve social change. However if we don’t, that isn’t a reflection on us. It is a reflection of the unjust world and systems. We don’t choose to be discriminated against in the first place, and it is unfair that once we have been, we have to decide if or how to fight for change as a result. Choosing not to fight can have a significant impact, as well as choosing to fight – because we can feel like we are letting ourselves or other people down.

    We think, however, that we shouldn’t feel like that. There should be no self-judgment as a result of deciding to not pursue an issue; or if pursuing it just doesn’t happen because other things have got in the way. We didn’t choose to be discriminated against; it is the world’s problem that we are; it isn’t our personal duty to challenge it. On the occasions we are able to pursue the issue, then that’s a benefit rather than an expectation; and we need to release ourselves from guilt over issues we’ve not challenged. (Easier said than done, but important for our wellbeing!)

    Knowing when to stop pursuing social change is an important part of social change!