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The Fallacy of Fairness

One of 15 common distortions of thinking which often leads to emotional boundary violation as people are processing their world from a skewed lens; and then reacts to their interpretation of their world-from an inaccurate view-is the fallacy of fairness. That distortion of believing that life can be fair leads to frustration, anger, defense mechanisms, blame, and discontentment. How dare someone question my measurement of what is fair! What do they mean that it is not fair to them? Don't they not see that it is not fair for me if we do things their way? I believe it to be fair so then it must be true. Why then do people resent it when I apply my ruler of fairness to situations that involve me? Only babies and small children are innocent of choosing to do wrong; yet they often fall prey to neglect, convenience, selfishness, and/or violence-which is fair in some minds; yet completely cruel and unfair in other’s minds.


At times, even God was questioned as to the fairness or unfairness of man’s situations which seemed totally unfair to man with their finite reasoning. God replied of how he has created everything and asked if any man is without fault or sin,…and how is it that man thinks himself wiser than God? Could man create the world and save the world? Man deserves the consequences of their sin; yet was redeemed due to God’s grace. The question is not why bad things happen to man (since we all deserve bad things) but, why does good things happen to we who do not deserve God’s grace.


Sometimes children, preteen, and adolescents come to the office crying, “It’s unfair” as they argue over the rules and the consequences of their home. This tends to double when in blended families, since one home may abide with a set of rules that the other home doesn't. Some employees complain about unfairness as they consider their wages against someone other-since they may do the same job. Although the credentials and/or years of experience of that other person may far exceed or fall less than that of the one complaining. People with an excellent work ethic, and who comes and works- while providing a good day of work for their employer; may complain when someone with a poor set of work ethics receive the same pay. Each of these individuals cry of unfairness and each believe that they are of the authority to gauge the issue as fair or unfair.


Whoever is in charge (parent, employer, leader, officer, and like) of the forum is the one who chooses what is fair-as they have the authority to decide what is fair and what is not. This does not mean that even they can objectively gauge this construct, but whatever they decide-is what will be implemented; fair or not fair. If they own it, rent it out, hire it out, officiate over it; then their ruler of fairness is therefore-fair. If one bucks against this authority and the policy or rules that pertain; then one may find their self un-employed, un-friend-ed, and like. Fairness however is a subjective construct which is often measured without a true and exact measurement.


Some questions that people can consider are:

1. Who has the authority to make this call?

2. Did I agree to the terms and has the person kept their end of that agreement?

3. Did I keep my end of the agreement (regardless of circumstance)?

4. If I was the one of authority-would I believe that the other person who did as I did; warranted what they think is fair?

5. Did any action on either side violate an emotional or physical boundary?

6. Are others held to the same rules and expectations?

7. For what reason are these rules implemented?

8. What kind of rules would I need if I was running a like business?

9. Have I ever run a like business so as to understand firsthand what is at stake?

10. What is my goal, and can I meet this goal while complying with the rules?


By answering these and other questions then one might be able to operate within the confines of the situation with less resentment, and more compliance, and contentment. Life is unfair. The sun shines upon both the nice and the unkind people. Good things happen to not nice people and bad things happen to most innocent or kind people. Squabbling as to the unfairness is hardly beneficial. It is here that we then attempt to find peace; and make a choice that is best for us. Is this something we can tolerate? Should we? If not, then do we choose to leave? Do we address the issue in hopes of finding a solution? Answering these questions help us to move forward and past the distortion itself. What evidence do we have to prove it is fair one way or other? Could it be that it is not worth the relational stress? With work-we find a way to help our clients to address these and the other 14 distortions-thus increasing their social and communication skills.

Thinking before we react often helps us to mindfully progress.

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