Something that was drilled into my head at a relatively early age were the words “life isn’t fair.” I didn’t really understand what that meant, but since then I’ve been very careful not to mix fair with life or its circumstances. However, what’s a boy to do when a girl flits into his life (my girlfriend of four months who up until now I have treated largely as a yeti) speaking things of fairness in conversations, situations, and disagreements? You see, this boy has been beckoned to reevaluate his stance on fairness and learn how to fight fair, while it’s true that life is far from fair. Allow me to elaborate.

Life isn’t fair.

how to fight fair: what is fair?

I remember the first time I heard Amy (yes, that’s her name) describe a situation as “not fair,” the hairs on my neck prickling. I bit my tongue in that moment in order to focus on the intended meaning of her statement. “Life isn’t fair,” ringing through my head, her statement stuck with me, obviously. What am I to do with such words? This statement that so flung in the face of my worldview, how could I do anything but fight it? Listen to your own thoughts long enough and you stop fighting. The fact of the matter is we all want fair, long for fair; fairness is embedded in our DNA.

Fairness is embedded in our DNA.

how to fight fair: life certainly isn’t.

There is a tension with my last sentence in that life isn’t fair. How can one desire fairness, seek to fight fair, expect fairness when the world is, I don’t care how you slice it, not fair? Oddly, the only system that works within these confines is karma. However, based on the suppositions of karma, I can’t get behind it. For the Christian learning how to fight fair, grace isn’t fair. In fact, grace is anything but fair. Where do I get this longing for fairness? Ah, because fairness is based on impartial, unbiased judgment, the kind of judgment only God can dole out, the kind of judgment He’s created us to expect, demand even. But where does this leave me in learning how to fight fair myself?

how to fight fair: i am not.

Learning how to fight fair, I’m now beginning to understand, is first about understanding my definition of “fair” is primarily self-interested. My definition’s flawed, and I seek to be mean and do wrong when I feel the tables of fairness tilt against me in conversations. The other person is equally flawed, no more, no less, just differently, and most likely equally as unwilling to inflict real harm in conversation. Learning how to fight fair is taking into consideration that we are all being shaped, refined daily, learning how to fight fair together. It isn’t a fight, but rather a tense negotiation. We can both win, and we can accomplish this outcome best by arriving there acting equitably toward one another, respecting each other.

Finding how to fight fair will be a lifelong pursuit in myriad-gray life. While it may feel like fairness is a distant memory of Eden, it’s up to us to fight for it in our daily lives. No, this world will never be fair, but we can be fair in it. We can choose to love when harmed, because our certainty isn’t in the opinions and words of others. We can shrug off iniquity because we have been forgiven so much more, so we are unencumbered to see the hurt beneath the attack. Underneath it all, we all long for fairness. At the end of the day, we’re all learning how to fight fair, together.