I have the amazing opportunity to be a father. I count that opportunity as one of the greatest blessing in my life. Being a father has allowed me to learn and grow a lot. This article is about one of those lessons.

As I believe is the case for any parent of young children, I hear these words a lot: “It’s not fair.” The more I have thought about it, the more I have realized that there is no “fair.”

No Fair

The notion of “fair” only exists when I compare myself to someone else. It is necessarily subjective. When things don’t seem to be going our way, we say “it’s not fair”.

“It’s not fair that he got the promotion.”

“It’s not fair that she can play the piano so effortlessly when it’s so hard for me.”

“It’s not fair that everyone is taller than me.”

However, when things are going our way, we think that fairness has nothing to do with it. Whether we say we’re lucky, or blessed, or we worked harder than everyone else, we never say that it’s unfair that something good has happened to us. For example, we never say it’s unfair that we got a bigger bonus than someone else. We don’t care about “fairness” when things are going right.

I spent two years in Brazil as a missionary for the LDS Church. I lived and worked mostly among the poorer people there. The things I saw in Brazil changed how I see the world. I saw drafty, unstable houses that would never stand up to strong wind or earthquake, let alone a building inspection. I saw open sewage in every city I visited. I saw children fending for themselves, playing soccer barefoot on the cobblestone streets strewn with broken glass and angry ants. I saw parents working multiple jobs just to be able to provide a meager living for their families, and counting themselves blessed to have work. I saw unfurnished one bedroom apartments shared by six men desperate for work, living hundreds of miles from their families, eating next to nothing, and sleeping on tile floors[1]. Is it fair that I was born in a good family, in a wealthy country, with plenty of opportunity for education? Set against this backdrop, it’s hard to argue that it’s not fair at all. There is no “fair.”

Justice For All

I believe what we are really looking for is justice. Justice is not between me and you, it is between me and the law. Justice has no bias, no prejudice, and no agenda. Where fairness is relative, justice is objective. Justice applies equally to the poor and the rich, the educated and the uneducated, the bond and the free. I believe in a justice that transcends all of the unfairness of the world we live in, administered perfectly by a loving God. I believe that truly desiring justice (instead of fairness) makes us better people. I hope I can teach that to my kids.

Further Reading