Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Does “Inconvenient” Mean ”Unfair”?

Isn’t it common for people—myself included—to denounce things as “unfair”? My three-year-old daughter has long said, complete with a stomped foot and pouty lip, that it’s not fair when things don’t work out the way she wanted them to.

It seems that in my life; when I say something’s “unfair” I actually mean that it’s “inconvenient”.

For something to truly be unfair it must be a violation of something I’m entitled to. It must be the denial of something I had a right to have. The problem is that I have a right to much, much less than I think I ought to!

The lure of calling things unfair when they’re simply unfavorable or undesired is pretty clear; if we’re treated unfairly then we can achieve the glorious status of victim. We may righteously feel frustrated—even indignant—because we’ve been treated unfairly; we deserved something and didn’t get it. On the other hand, if we admit that we have no right to claim anything and yet we’re frustrated by the inconvenience we’re confronted with an unpleasant reality; our selfishness.

Imagine my daughter wants to go and play at the park. Imagine further that her mom and I have told her she can go play as soon as she picks up her toys and puts them away. If she picks up her toys exactly as we requested and we still won’t let her go to the park she’ll likely call it “unfair”. In that case; I’d agree with her. She was promised something and wasn’t given it; something she deserved wasn’t given. If she didn’t clean up her toys she’d still be frustrated when we told her she can’t go to the park but it would no longer be unfair; it’d simply be an inconvenient consequence of her actions.

So often I think that if God were fair then he would make my life convenient. If he doesn’t answer my prayers when and how I want him to then I label him as unfair. This seems a tad odd considering that I have no right to boss around not only my creator but the creator of the universe, doesn’t it? I’m tempted to say “if God is really good then he would fix this or do that”; which makes God the villain and me the victim. My prayers and desires can’t be selfish if I deserve them, right?

Let’s make some effort to listen for the use of “unfair” in our conversations and try to call things exactly what they are. It might be amazing to see how many unfair things are simply inconvenient after all.

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