Not Fair

By Marjorie Foerster Eddington

“That’s not fair!” we often hear. And most of us can understand this, given that we have an innate sense of justice built into us. Fairness, as it applies to human dignity and liberty, is one reason why there was the American Revolution. We’re indebted to those who stood up for “liberty and justice for all,” who ended the slave trade, got the vote for women, fought for civil rights, and continue to fight for people’s freedom all over the world today. Fairness, justice, is hugely important in our world.

Be that as it may, the human experience is just not always fair; nor will it ever be. And some of those unfair things are not worth fighting for. More shockingly, if we fight for them, it makes things worse. This is a really hard lesson to learn. It’s one of those earth-shattering lessons, since we’re taught at a young age to be fair.

So let’s go back to that cry, “Not fair.” What is that cry really about? Let’s use one of the everyday life’s-not-fair examples. A sister gets a bigger piece of chocolate cake than the brother, and the brother notices it: “Hey, not fair. She always gets the bigger piece.” Well, it’s tremendously difficult to split cake, etc., precisely in half. So someone is usually going to get the bigger piece, and someone is going to get the smaller piece. So why do we make such a big deal about it? Why is there this gut-wrenching cry? (And it doesn’t have to be dessert. Put in your own variety of unfairness here.)

Isn’t the cry saying, “I don’t have enough! I’m not good enough! I may miss out on something that’s really important! I’m not loved enough!”? Isn’t the “not fair” about the “enough”? We’re concerned that there’s not enough love to go around. We won’t have our needs met. We’re feeling underappreciated. We lack.

So how do we address the concept of fairness? How do we not make a big deal of getting the smaller piece of cake and the thousands of little things we can label “not fair”? How do we accept that not every situation is fair, nor can it be, and then move through these feelings?

We start by healing the concept of lack. The shepherd David got straight to the point in his beloved song: “The LORD is my shepherd, I lack nothing” (Ps 23:1 NIV). “I shall not want” (KJV). “I have all that I need” (NLT). “I will never be in need” (CEV). God, our Shepherd, takes care of us tenderly and expertly, the way a shepherd lovingly takes care of his sheep.

Jesus affirmed this truth much later, too, when he told his followers not to worry about what to eat, drink, or wear—not to worry about a thing! Why? Because God, “your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him!” (Matt 6:8 NIV). God supplies all our needs before we ask. Wow!

There is always enough to meet our need—always enough love to go around, always enough appreciation, inspiration, intelligence, creativity, friendship, belonging, safety, peace for us and for everyone else because these feelings or qualities all come from God. God can’t run out of love. God never has a shortage, never runs out of the supplies that we need. And God has enough for everyone.

And that helps address a different aspect of lack, which companions with comparisons. If she gets the bigger piece of cake, then she must be better, more loved, more beautiful, more whatever than me. But we already know that God meets our needs, everyone’s needs, and doesn’t run out. God is infinite. God is enough.

So we’re not working from the premise of limited supply. Therefore, we don’t have to compete for limited resources, and thus, we don’t have to compare ourselves with anyone else. We don’t have to feel indignant or hurt or less than because a situation appears to be unfair. We don’t have to compare. Rather, we can be grateful that we have just what we need and that the other person has just what she needs.

We are enough, just the way we are, for we are God’s beloved child. We don’t have to get anyone’s appreciation or approval or love to feel a sense of belonging. God approves of us. God loves us. We belong to God. We don’t have to win anything to feel successful. We don’t have to get the bigger piece of the cake to feel satisfied or cared for. We are already enough just the way God made us. Every genuine need of ours is always met.

God is tenderly shepherding us. We are loved. That is enough.