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Written by Jeremy Stalnecker

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Earlier this week I used quite a few words to discuss the issue of “Fairness” in our culture. You can take a look at that here. In that post I did my best to develop an understanding that even though life really is not fair (and can’t be since the underlying foundation is broken), there are still things that we can do to live for God, pursue justice, and communicate the truth. I hope that those thoughts were helpful. Before moving on from this topic I wanted to write one more, much shorter, post to help with our perspective.

The conversation about fairness and equality in our culture has reached a point of intolerance and in many cases even violence. While this is ironic when talking about how we should all be the same, the mainstream understanding of these issues has given license to those willing to destroy the thoughts, actions and opinions of others if those seem to be limiting the potential of someone else. Defining how they limit potential is all very arbitrary and subjective to the experience of those issuing judgment, but there is a self-righteousness projected by those who are willing to do harm to some in the name of equality for others. As I discussed in my previous post, I believe that we have a responsibility to pursue justice and stand up for those who cannot stand up for themselves. In that sense I believe that we need to use whatever tools are available to us to pursue fairness and equality. The question though is, “how do we define what is fair?” For many in the mainstream conversation, “fairness” and “equality” equals shared outcomes for all people at all times. If there is a person who has more than someone else (more could be anything from money to influence and everything in between), a lack of fairness or “inequality” exists. So, if you believe that “fair” is all about outcomes than your fight for equality is all about making everyone exactly the same.

The reality, though, is that everyone is not the same. Some work harder, are smarter, are more athletic or more attractive than others. This is not “fair”, but its true. These realities are out of our control and, although not fair, should not be cause for penalty. So when we talk about justice and the fight for equality, what is it that we are really fighting for?

Equality of Opportunity NOT equality of Outcome.

Outcomes will be different. That’s the reason I wrote the last post. If you have not read it yet, go here. Life will never really be fair if we define “fair” as everyone having and doing the exact same things. Fair is when we all have the same opportunity to succeed or fail. Similar to the picture above, fair is not everyone winning the race; fair is everyone starting at the same place and allowed to start running at the same time. There will be winners and losers but everyone should be given the same shot.

If you are still reading I know what you are thinking: “That is the real problem. Not everyone starts at the same place at the same time.” And this should be the discussion. How can we make it possible for everyone to have the same opportunities? Not favoring one over another because of something that they had no control over. Also not picking who will win and who will lose but creating, or reinforcing systems that give everyone the same opportunity to succeed.

This is about perspective and warrants much deeper conversation to be sure, but the perspective and the conversations need to be about Opportunities instead of Outcomes.

What is Fair? Outcomes vs. Opportunities

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