For quite a while I have been wrestling with the concepts of fairness and justice. It has certainly been kicked around for hundreds and thousands of years in so many contexts. And for Nan and me it gets talked about a lot in counseling with couples, particularly.
If you have ever been around a divorcing couple trying to work out child custody issues, you will likely be torn between both sides of the requests. Each can make really good points why they should have primary custody. They both may have really good arguments about time distribution and money allocation. That is why a judge is required. But what does the judge offer? An opinion.
Who is the judge?
Issues of fairness always circulate around the opinion of a “judge”. But opinions by definition are interpretations and not facts, even when they are based on facts. And opinions are biased, even when the judge is doing the best that he/she can do to be neutral. Why? We are human, flawed, and our opinions are formed by our experience and our feelings.
I must say that I often set myself up to be the judge of fairness, as if I have all the facts, have looked from all perspectives and have every necessary criterion to make a definitive pronouncement. I remember one time pointing out to friend of mine that he was wearing two different colored socks and that they didn’t match. He assured me that they did match because they were the same thickness. I made a judgment based on my criteria, but he was using a different set of criteria. Who was right?
Why is this important?
When I speak to the issues of fairness and justice I must be careful that I am not assuming the position of absolute moral authority which belongs to God alone. I may be operating out of a blind spot that is damaging to my relationships. My position of certainty may betray my lack of humility and my ability to empathize with others. In the past Nan used to say to me; “Dave, you are too convinced of your own opinion!” Unfortunately, she was right. Of course she wasn’t only speaking of this issue, but of a general blind spot resulting from my narcissistic tendencies.
Is it fair or just, the way I sometimes treat Nan? Is it fair or just, the way she sometimes reacts to me? Would it be fair for her to label me based on her educational training? Would it be fair if I resisted the label? I’m sure that you might have an opinion – but is fair to hold it?
Be careful around these issues. Yes, some things are evil and totally unacceptable and there would be little or no disagreement among civilized people. But with few exceptions, most of what we encounter on a daily basis do not fall into these categories.
Psalm 9:8 (NLT) He (God) will judge the world with justice and rule the nations with fairness.