Is it Fair, Is it Equal, Is it Just?

Since becoming a dad I have been wrestling with and revisiting not only the core concepts that I would like to pass on to my son, but also reexamining my thoughts on tricky questions. Questions like: Would you rather be remembered as fair or just?

In our development from child to adult we go through many developmental stages physically and mentally. The same way that we progress in our ability to walk; we also progress in our morality. As a parent, especially if you have multiple kids, you have to address what is fair, what is equal, and what is just.

Just think about the cornucopia of disputes that have to be resolved: portion sizes, time-conflicts, pieces of candy, why do people treat boys different than girls, why is this Walmart security guard trying to arrest my dad, the list can go on forever.

  • Equal: Everyone gets 1 slice of pizza.
  • Fair: You can only get more pizza if you have finished your first slice.
  • Just: I will take away any pizza that breaks the rules.

Answering in what measure a particular action or decision meets a standard of fairness, equality, and justice is of monumental importance to introduce a child to as they grow. In a simple example of a big kid hitting a smaller kid, what is fair, just, and equal? To let a small kid hit a big kid has a clear parity for justice, but is it really equal? To have you, an adult, hit the big kid may result in a more equal exchange, but is fair to anyone involved? The way that you express and act on issues of inequality will form how your child sees and acts on the world.

Last month the Supreme Court ruled on DOMA. They ruled that it constitutes legislated inequality, and so is indefensible and null. That is definitely in the realm of the equal decision. But, in my opinion, they did not serve justice. I don’t think it is fair or just to say, “That is unequal, you can’t do that, let’s not talk about fixing it.”

Equal-marriage is one of the few places where parity (everyone gets the same thing) can actually meet the standard for all three issues. Because this issue comes down to access to a contractual agreement, simply flipping the switch and taking the restrictions off will make access equal, allow those who want to to exercise their rights, and repair the injustice.

If your largest goal is to create equality (in a global sense), it is important to err on the side of fairness, not parity. It is a strange road to walk, but in the long run I think emphasizing the importance of sharing and an understanding that unequal is not the same as unfair will help the next generation.

I believe being fair in what I do will eventually lead to equal respect and dignity for the people in my life. I hope that I am remembered as a fair person–someone who considered the people involved in equality, not the resources.

7 thoughts on “Is it Fair, Is it Equal, Is it Just?”

  1. Yes. Kindness and generosity can fly in the face of fairness… when undeserved. The classic biblical story of the loving father & the prodigal son seems like a simple, heartwarming story of a father throwing a welcoming home party for fhe son who disgraced him… until the older brother points out the Inequality, since there had never been a party thrown for him. At some point each of us is in each of the three positions. To add to the complexity, the father argues that different is not necessarily unequal. Hence not unfair. The story seems to illustrate a lot of your points. But the father also argues that we should be glad for generosity … Unearned kindness… The implication being that we all need it at times.

  2. Love your post! Having two boys of similar ages I struggle daily to have them understand that fair does not always mean equal. Just great that we are trying to get them to understand something greater than themselves.

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