It was our first session, but I heard a phrase I had heard countless times before…
“It isn’t fair!”
I asked what wasn’t fair, and Fred informed me: “Life isn’t fair.” He told me about how, in the same month, his wife left him, he was fired from his job, and he wrecked his car.
“It just isn’t fair,” he reiterated.
For a few seconds, we just sat there. He looked up at me and asked, “Aren’t you going to try to tell me that life really IS fair? That I need to wait and see?”
“Nope,” I responded.
The confusion spread across his face. He, again, told me that life wasn’t fair – he even declared it. So, I continued, “You are right. Life isn’t fair. I wouldn’t try to convince you otherwise.”
He stared back at me, looking more angry than hurt at that moment, “Then, what’s the point?”
The point, I told Fred, had never been about it being “fair.” Jesus even said that God makes the “sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust” (Matthew 5:45). Good things happen to bad people and bad things happen to good people. Oh, and good things happen to good people and bad things happen to bad people.
It would seem that Jesus was not stuck on life being “fair.” So, why are we?
When I was a child, my brother and I often had to split treats. Like, for instance, a cookie. We would argue about our “fair share.” So, my parents made a rule. One of us would split the treat, and the other would choose sides. Never has a cookie or snack been more carefully split, down to the crumb, than when a sibling was going to get the pick of the pieces.
Children want things to be fair. The problem is, we drag that into adulthood. In spite of clear evidence that it isn’t true.
Life is interesting, challenging, and stretching. It is not, though, fair.
First, when we stomp our feet about “fairness,” usually, we are focused on ourselves. If I declare that life isn’t fair, more often than not, I am mostly focused on how life isn’t fair to me. I am mostly concerned about why I am not getting my fair share. In fact, I never hear that question from people who are feeling like they got more than their fair share. More than that, though, asking the question causes us to be self-focused. And that causes us to miss the next piece.
Because, second, if you and I are able to read this article, found on the Internet, via some electronic device, in relative safety, we have already won the “fairness lottery.” We have already received more than our “fair share” compared to most of the world.
In fact, given the many factors that happened so that you or I are even here, on this planet, at this time, we have already been given a gift. In other words, life has been more than fair to us. Life isn’t fair. We have already won.
Yes, we will challenges. And yet, we can face those challenges with the knowledge that God is with us in those very struggles.
And those struggles? They give us opportunities to grow.
For a moment, assume that I wanted to get stronger, gain more muscle (or at my age, strengthen the muscle I do have!). Am I better served wondering why my muscles aren’t already there – why I wasn’t I given my “fair share?” Or would I be better served by maybe going to the gym and lifting some weights?
When we stop asking why we don’t have our fair share, and start taking on the challenge(s), we shift. We move from waiting for life to happen, to choosing the life we want, and what God wants for us.
If I look a bit deeper, I realize that when I am wanting my “fair share” (say, of muscles), my comparison is of someone who has more than their fair share. Likely due to the fact that they have already put in the work to have those muscles. They may have more of a genetic tendency toward them, but it’s also likely that they have put in the effort.
Which is really the point… it was never a fair distribution. That is not built into creation.
God has created each of us with a special combination of abilities and capacities. Not based on everything being fair, but of everyone becoming who they can be. Otherwise, we all end up being bland and identical.
So, if life isn’t fair – and isn’t even meant to be fair, what do you do?
1) Accept that there are still opportunities for growth when life seems particularly unfair. Growth is the result of challenge, but only when we take it head on.
2) Recognize that the fairness scale is likely already tipped in your favor. Being alive is tipping point No. 1. We’ve already won the fairness measurement.
3) Decide that life was never about fairness, but about purpose. What is God’s purpose for you? What are you uniquely (not fairly) equipped to do? When we get caught up in what’s fair or not fair, we can get stuck. And that keeps us from acting on our purpose.
4) Remember that just because life isn’t meant to be fair, we don’t get a pass on injustice. Life, at its core, is not designed around fairness. However, God calls us to challenge injustice that others create. Give up on life being fair, but stand on the side of justice.
Each of us are uniquely created – “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14) – and our cries for fairness often keep us from stepping into our full and best selves. If we want to truly live out God’s purpose in our lives, we must step into our best self.
Don’t wait for your “fair share.” Start from where you find yourself. Then, focus yourself on discovering your purpose in God’s creation.