Every child at some point makes the claim that life is not fair. And if we are honest with ourselves, it is a sentiment we never fully let go of. Even as adults, in our most troubling and frustrating circumstances, we feel the same thought bubbling to the surface.
Just like with a child, when we talk about life being fair, we don’t really mean fair. What we mean is “life is not fair towards my advantage”. When we think this refrain, we are thinking about how somebody else got something we wanted. Or about how we are suffering in ways that others are not.
It is a deeply personal claim. And it reveals something important about the way we view the world. We are skewed toward our own well-being. Biased toward our own happiness and agenda. And it messes with the scales of our perspective. And so, we cannot rightly measure fairness because we are clouded by our own desires. And so, when we say “life is not fair”, it is clouded by our wrongly-calibrated scales. Something is off, if my happiness and my agenda are the goal.
There are some ways in which life really is not fair. Some people are born into better circumstances, for instance.
But there is also a sense in which life is eternally fair. Even those people born in the best of circumstances have to navigate those circumstances with good character. Look at how many suicides and drug overdoses, future divorces and estranged parental relationships happen with those who are born “well-off”. The circumstances may be different for each of us. But stewarding our character is a matter of personal ownership. And, in that way, we are all in the same boat. Circumstances are not an excuse for poor character, for any of us.
And, of course, there is the sense in which the unfairness of our world sometimes works in our favor. We might be poor but have parents who love us and spend time with us. We might be blessed with an aptitude for self-awareness even if we struggle for vision.
There are ways in which we succeed and ways in which we fail. We love the story of us as failures. For some reason, we love harping on what we do not have. What others have. Where we fall short or struggle. But there is so much we are doing, so much we are, that is right and good.
There is also the reality that we have all received some sort of grace when we mess up. If life was fair, we’d all hold offenses against one another in equal measure.
Forgiveness is a great gift given by God. Whenever you think “Life’s not fair”, consider what God has done for us. None of us really wants life to be fair. We would all be in trouble. We want others to treat us fairly but we want to get away with as much as we can. God did not create a world based on fairness. He created a world based on love.