That’s Not Fair



If you have kids, you’ve heard it a million times:

That’s not fair.

My three oldest kids are  three and a half years apart from start to finish.  It’s amazing how often I’m walking on egg shells because of those three little words.

Are there enough cookies for everyone to get two? Who gets the last sip of my soda?  Who gets the last scoop of green beans (ok, just checking to see if you’re paying attention)?

“Why does he get a playdate?”

“She got to go swimming yesterday.”

“He ate all of the cereal.”

That’s not fair.


parenting in weakness


We love “being fair” as humans, probably even more as Americans. I work, I get what’s due to me. If she gets a piece of chocolate, I get one, too. It’s only fair. Curiously,  “fair” is seldom used to defend someone else; instead,  it’s used  to defend the rights of the person who wants what the other person has. It’s primarily self-focused.

So, we have a couple of little phrases of our own  in response to That’s Not Fair:

#1 We live by grace and mercy


#2 Rejoice with those who rejoice.

#1 In God’s kingdom, do we really want what’s fair?  Fair looks a lot like Jesus NOT dying on the cross and us paying for our sin instead. If God played fair, we’d be in a heap of trouble. Now, we don’t hammer this into their heads every time they say or imply: that’s not fair. But the concept  informs our responses to their pitiful pleas, though there are times that I respond in a  sing-songy, “Remember-children-we-live-by-grace-and-mercy.”

But that’s mainly to annoy them.

There are times when someone’s going to have a playdate and the other isn’t, when one has 3 birthday parties in a month and the others don’t, when there’s only one piece of chocolate cake left (in that case, I get it!). How do I want them to respond in those moments? See #2.

#2 Rejoice with those who rejoice.

{Ok, we’re seriously working on this one folks. It doesn’t come naturally to ANY of us.}

In Tim Keller’s sermon, Blessed Self-Forgetfulness, he exhorts us to let go of having to be first, having to be the best, in order to actually enjoy the accomplishment of another, just because it happened… just because it’s beautiful. He used a hypothetical  example of an Olympic ice skater who’d be totally content to come in second place  just because the artistry and skill of the gold-medal winner was so stunning, she could rejoice simply because it happened.

Seems far-fetched, I know (that’s why it was a hypothetical example). Tim Keller  admits that this kind of “self-forgetfulness” is way outside of our paradigm.  But isn’t that one of the beautiful, yet arduous, things about being in community: learning that we’re not the center of the universe, that there is joy when we love one another, instead of always demanding what’s fair.

When the curtain closes on this brief parenting gig, that’s really one of the things I want them to remember. I want them sitting around the table together, making fun of me, rolling their eyes at all the times I said, “Rejoice!” when someone got something that they didn’t. But I also want them to remember me praying, not only for them, but for my own heart because I want what’s fair, too… for meoften.

(And “fair” looks a whole lot like a trip to Italy. Just sayin’.)


**How do you respond to That’s Not Fair in your home or community?






  • Lauren ‘Viss’ Elban

    Love this post, Julie!

  • Julie Davis

    Thanks, Lauren. I loved that you applied the concept to marriage as well! “That’s not fair” lives in all of our hearts, so it affects all of our relationships. Good insight. Hope you are well!