There are few phrases that anger me more quickly than "life's not fair." I've heard it throughout my life, as I'm sure you have in yours, no doubt from your own mothers, fathers, teachers, bosses, or anyone else who was either unable or unwilling to fix some perceived injustice. The reason I hate it, to put it bluntly, is because it's generally a lie.
When you think about the word fair, there can be about a hundred different definitions of what fair actually is. Merriam-Webster lists eleven. The definition that most adequately describes the fair I'm talking about is number six:
"a : marked by impartiality and honesty : free from self-interest, prejudice, or favoritism b (1) : conforming with the established rules : ALLOWED (2) : consonant with merit or importance : DUE c : open to legitimate pursuit, attack, or ridiculeThis definition is not to be confused with number two: "superficially pleasing." The fair I'm talking about is a synonym with just, something I believe people should truly take into account before claiming that life isn't fair.
Is life really as unjust as we think it is? Is it unjust for a parent to discipline an unruly child? Is it unjust for a teacher to put a poor grade on a poorly done assignment? Is it unjust that the natural course of probability doesn't always tip in your favor?
How about an example: If I happen to be running late to work and I run into a red light at every intersection, could I call this an injustice? And if so, where is the malice or exclusion brought about by this occurrence? After all, every other car on the road is required to stop at certain times. I, like anyone else, must stop at the red light and go at the green. This is what we call equality; the same rules for everyone* else. Also, it's not like the traffic lights are manned by people bent against my punctuality or that it is the traffic lights' responsibility to get me to work on time. In this case, I would say that if I'm a victim of anything, I'm a victim of chance or inconvenience, not injustice.
Yet I am concerned that half of the time people claim that something isn't fair, it really is. This is why the cries of unfairness often come off as childish, as children often do not have the ability to see the bigger picture in which fairness is preserved. I contend that any other whines of a similar nature are just as childish. So is it fair if it rains at a wedding? Yes. It's not desirable, but what's not fair is expecting the laws of nature to bend around individual wishes. I'm afraid that the truth is that life is too often more fair than we would like to admit.
Of course, there are things that should never happen to anyone. Some of them stem from nature, like violent weather or incurable diseases. This especially hits home to me, as my beloved grandmother suffers from Alzheimer's. To anyone that has not felt the pain of watching a loved one's individuality fade in such a manner, allow me to vehemently assure you that no one should. Yet is this unjust? I'm tempted to say yes, and I don't believe I'm qualified to say no. In these situations, the question of injustice is a moot point; time should be spent on finding a cure or coping than arguing about technicalities.
Other issues of a more moral nature often arise. Because I believe in the Bible, I strongly believe that baptism by authority is required by God. Yet is it just for people who have no access to someone with God's authority to be punished for something they couldn't control? I believe in a God who is not a respecter of persons, so I must say yes. What about people who have no opportunity to accept Christ as their Savior because they lived their whole life without even hearing His name? This too is an injustice, and this is why the Atonement of Jesus Christ was so important, because it corrects all of these injustices, and does even more. By suffering for our sins, Christ atoned for the fall, for our sins, and for the choices we were unable to make. This is why we call our God a just God, and why we worship Him. This is the good news. And with this in mind, in addition to the concept of God's grace, we can come to realize that in an eternal perspective, life is more than fair.
And then there are the many true injustices in the world. Cheating, stealing, lying, are among the more mild ones; murder, rape, racism, and abuse are among the more serious. There is an inner part of us, present from birth, that abhors each and every one of these actions. More importantly, these actions are sins which bring us farther and farther from God and salvation. There have been too many times when a complaint against one of these offenses has been responded to with "Life's not fair." To me, the call of "life's not fair" in these instances is an attack against our very humanity. I don't believe that anyone honestly thinks uttering the words "life's not fair" will automatically solve any problem. Yet, more often than not, people use "life's not fair" as a way to escape blame or responsibility. Yes, injustice goes on in the world, but it shouldn't. What is the point of living if there is no hope for the betterment of life? As moral people, don't we have an obligation to do something? There is always something that can be done. Sometimes becoming aware and informed is enough. Sometimes a letter to a representative is in order, or even more. If all humans are truly created equal, than don't we have an obligation to make sure we treat each human with justice and equality? I believe we do, and I believe that our opportunity to become the change we want to see in the world can have a greater effect than we often think possible.
In conclusion, I encourage you, Gentle Reader, to challenge those** who are inclined to tell you that life isn't fair. They may be too absorbed in themselves to see the bigger picture, or they may be trying to make an excuse when they should make amends. In any case, it's a question that should be asked.
Regards, best wishes, and change,
*With understandable exceptions for emergency vehicles, of course.
**I would also encourage those who say that they aren't perfect, because "life's not fair" and "I'm not perfect" are often two symptoms of the same sin. Neither is an adequate excuse for bad behavior.