Western pop culture mis-interpretations of karma are consistent with western dualism. They try to make karma into some kind of deity which passes black/white good/bad judgments and doles out punishments and rewards. This is completely off base.
In my opinion, NOT believing in the weird notion you had before of karma sounds like a positive step for you; a nudge towards more positive tendencies for you, more joy, more motivation to create value. An improvement for you! Improvement is using the karmic process for good — so-called “good karma”. Passively accepting decline is allowing the karmic process to “chain” you into further decline — so-called “bad karma”.
Karma simply describes the consistency of the inescapable process by which we form tendencies as we react to the effects of our own past causes. In other words, cause and effect are simultaneous. Living passively, one will tend to re-enforce current trends. Living actively, one can modify the trend line. By changing ourselves and thus changing our reactions, we can change our trajectory in life. The moral judgment we give those tendencies is completely subjective and it is up to all of us to do our best to create value for ourselves and our society. We each are the center of the universe. If we don’t care the universe doesn’t care.
In Buddhism the Lotus blossom symbolizes karma. This is because lotus seeds explode ready for germination as the blossom opens which is different from most flowers that bloom first and present ready seed later. This represents the simultaneity of cause and effect. Also, and very importantly, the lotus represents the potential in every moment to set a new direction in life because in spite of living in putrid conditions the lotus is a magnificently noble and beautiful blossom. Greek philosophers describe how we are only as rational as our emotions allow us to be. The target of Buddhist practice is to tap a source of wisdom deeper that the “chains” of our bad karma (the tendency to re-enforce negative current trends). To use the creative potential of each moment to find new, more value-creating ways to react to the effects of our own past causes. Therefore, karma calls upon us to work hard to establish justice, not to excuse wrong behavior or passively wait for some “KarmaDiety” to dole out justice.
So keep giving certain people hell, Vanessa. Sometimes that’s the best thing you can do for them and your own mental health! At the same time, though, be aware that anger is a message we give ourselves; a message we should take to heart. We are not punished BECAUSE of our anger but actually punished BY our anger. Try compassionate corrections instead of hateful criticism. I know that some people just don’t seem to care, but if from a place of compassion you defend your dignity and the dignity of others you will be creating karmic good. In the Lotus Sutra, the Buddha predicted the future enlightenment of his worst enemy, so don’t hold back, let your sense of justice flow. The recipients of your correctives will feel your compassion and with that seed planted by you in their lives eventually attain enlightenment.