Sensing That This Isn't Fair
“I am battling how unequal parenting feels sometimes. Is that normal?”
I immediately answered my friend’s text with, “Yes! So normal.” And then I speed-texted down memory lane and shared with her a handful of stories from when my kids were young and I was constantly battling a sense that this isn’t fair.
But the sense that this isn’t fair is not reserved for motherhood alone.
- Amongst students: Hey, I study way harder, why is she getting better grades?
- Amongst siblings: I do more chores, why does he receive more praise?
- Amongst neighbors: How did he land such a high paying job?
- Amongst colleagues: Why did she get the promotion when I’m the one who sealed the last deal?
- Amongst missionaries: If only our agency headquarters could see how much more I do than my teammates…
- Amongst pastors: How is that guy’s church growing so fast? He’s a terrible preacher.
Whether we are moms, CEOs, or in full-time Christian ministry we compare ourselves to one another. And, undoubtedly, we consider ourselves the harder worker, the better performer, the one who deserves a bit more. I knew exactly what my friend’s SOS text was all about, because I have been there and I am still there, more often than I’d like to admit.
I shared with her two things that I have tried to practice over the years when the sense that this isn’t fair rears its ugly head.
1. Put blinders on.
Have you ever seen a race horse? They often wear blinders on the sides of their eyes so they can’t see what’s happening next to them. They can only focus on what’s ahead—the goal, the finish line. Their jockeys know that if they look to the left or to the right, they will slow down and become distracted.
And so it is with us. When we look around at how others are performing, we become distracted. We get consumed with critiquing them and take our eyes off the course that has been set for us.
Hebrews 12:1-2a says, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith” (italics mine).
Philippians 3:13-14 says, “But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (italics mine).
The Lord has set a race course for us. He has called each of us uniquely, for his glory and for our good. Our races don’t match each other’s, but are designed specifically for us. Our sovereign Father sees us and knows what he’s doing. He wants us to fix our eyes on him and run the race for him. There is no allowance in scripture for us to compare our race to another’s.
2. Remember Jesus’s Unfair Calling
When I get the sense that this isn’t fair, I try (clearly, with the Spirit’s help, as my mind is on myself in that moment) to remember Jesus, “who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:6-8).
God himself, whose rightful place is on a throne in heaven, willingly condescended and walked this dirty earth to save me, his enemy. How unfair is that? And if our perfect Savior was willing to die for his enemies, how much more should I—a very imperfect and fallen woman—be willing to sacrifice to serve him and others?
If there ever was anyone who could rightfully say this isn’t fair, it was Jesus.
Our Choice: Bitterness or Joy?
Hebrews 12:2 tells us that it was “for the joy that was set before him [that Jesus] endured the cross.” Somehow, enduring pain beyond imagine led to Jesus’s joy. When Jesus obeyed his Father and poured himself out on behalf of his enemies, it led to joy.
But comparison leads to bitterness. When we fix our eyes not on our own race, but on others’ we become bitter. We inevitably tally our score higher than theirs and we cry foul.
When you and I put on blinders, when we fix our eyes on Jesus, when we are of “the same mind” (Philippians 2:2) as Christ, when we willingly empty ourselves for his sake and others’, we can be like Paul and say, “Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering…I am glad and rejoice” (Philippians 2:17).
Whether we are moms, students, executives, or missionaries, may God work in us (Philippians 2:13) and help us to choose joy over bitterness, sacrifice over selfishness, a focus on our own race and prize rather than the performance of another.