Not Fair

Not Fair

Children From the Authors

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. ~Ephesians 2:8-9 (NIV)

Ever read the part in the Bible where it says that if you believe in Jesus your life will be easy peasy from here on out? No? Me neither. Pretty sure that’s not in the Bible. “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you shall be saved!*” Yes. That is in the Bible. But saved does not mean an easy life.

My eldest son has been doing a lot of questioning. And the sum total of all his questions is that one phrase all children use at some point in their lives: it’s not fair!**

This is my older son, demonstrating that he is the "King of the Mountain."
This is my older son, demonstrating that he is the “King of the Mountain.”

First of all, he sees things through his limited perspective. For example: It is not fair that he has to do the dishes by himself, but I help his younger sister when it is her turn to do the dishes.

I, as his parent, have a different perspective (just like God’s perspective is so much more farseeing than my own limited perspective). I have tried explaining that when he was four, I helped him with dishes. But reasoning only gets you so far when your child has documented so much ‘unfairness.’ He just brings up the next item on the list.

So, I remembered an analogy from my college days. We were discussing the purpose of special education in schools. And someone brought up the word ‘fair.’ (As in, “Is it fair to give a student notes, but make everyone else take their own notes?) And the professor quickly addressed the deeper issue. To most of us ‘fair’ translates as ‘equal’ (or everyone gets the exact same thing). But in this instance, we were talking about something a student needed to be able to succeed.

The professor shared an analogy with my class that has stuck with me. It goes something like:

If I were in a room with ten people, and suddenly Bob fell over from a heart attack, and I knew CPR, what should I do? Should I help Bob? Or should I say, “Bob, I’m sorry. But it would not be fair if I only gave CPR to you and no one else. So I will give CPR to everyone or no one.”

I really liked that analogy. It’s a very stark example of why we would choose not to make everything the same. And it boils down to someone’s need.

I’ve used it when talking about parenting with my husband. Does fair mean “equal” or does it mean something else? Having three children, we are always amazed at how different they are. They were raised in the same household, have had a lot of the same opportunities and experiences. And they are so so so very different. We have tried not to use the word fair or unfair, and tried to focus on what they need. And what is best for them.

But being children, they of course picked up on the whole fair/unfair idea. So what do we tell them?

Since I think my little analogy is over their heads for now, I’ve just responded to “That’s not fair!” With one simple sentence.

“Fair does not mean everything is the same. What’s fair is that you are loved.”

And being loved is a gift that some of us take for granted. And while my oldest son gives me a look whenever I pull out this sentence, at least he’s not arguing with me about it. Because what I am saying is that I love him. That I care for him, and I hear him, and I understand him. But also that I am doing my best, and he is just going to have to do the dishes. I hope he is thinking it over. And as he grows we can keep talking about fair, and unfair.

Life is not always easy, or even good. But God is always good. And He is for us, not against us.

Be blessed to love others with all your heart. And may God renew you with His everlasting, unending, never-failing love. In Jesus name, Amen!


*For example, in Acts 16:31

**When my son says, “It’s not fair!” The immediate response I want to give is, “Life’s not fair. Get used to it!” But… that doesn’t go over well with a clever seven-year-old who is really good at debating.