Fairness is one of those rules of life we follow so closely we expect it to always be there. If we do not think a situation is fair, we sometimes take extreme measures to make it right. Fairness is pursued when we believe another has received an advantage of some kind. We want to insure we are getting fairness.
My wife is part of a group that conducts a toy drive to give a gift to children in families who cannot afford to buy gifts at Christmas, insuring they have at least one present to unwrap. Another organization, Samaritan’s Purse, collects and distributes in other parts of the world shoeboxes full of Christmas gifts. Operation Christmas Child has been a great program to help teach our children the importance of giving. It is important to give and to serve selflessly. We spend a significant amount of time in this blog discussing the role of leaders serving others and giving of themselves. Oftentimes we are giving out of our excess, so the balance of fairness is maintained (at least in our favor).
But today, Christmas Day, I am reminded of the flip side of getting fairness. We can refer to it here as giving fairness. We set up a gift exchange and establish spending limits, to be fair. We draw names out of a hat, defining the limits of who we are giving to (and getting from), to minimize the spending burden and to insure everyone gets the same number of gifts – to be fair.
We are driven to somehow reconcile the imbalance of fairness when someone steps outside of these established bounds. We feel the need to give in order to make it fair since we just received something. We are willing to spend money or to work it off in order to be fair. A simple “thank you” does not feel like it is enough, no matter how sincere.
In these out-of-balance situations, when we get to the point of knowing there is nothing for us to give or do that can make it fair and equitable, we accept the gift. We express our gratitude with a sincere thank you, but we may sometimes feel awkward and defeated. There is nothing in our power we can do to “fix the situation.”
The purity of a gift given without any expectation but for the recipient to receive it with joy is an expression of love, admiration, and caring. A good friend of mine gave me one of those gifts this year. My reflexive thoughts jumped right to this idea of a fairness imbalance, and thinking of things to do to make it right. (My joy is in having a dear friend to travel along some of life’s paths together. And, thank you for the gift.)
We are uncomfortable when something occurs outside of our control. In fact, we will sometimes reject a gift when it does not align with our own expectations and understanding of how things should be. Rules are established and work is conducted in order to achieve the things needed. These activities can mask needs , making us unaware of a real situation. In a previous post on truth, we discussed there may be facts that are unknown (for instance, the earth is spherical, not flat), but it does not change the facts.
Christmas Day is a holiday – people don’t have to go to work… except for the folks working at the movie theaters, restaurants, and our public servants keeping us safe. We have built up so many masks and distractions in our culture, we forget what Christmas is about. It is not about getting stuff or giving stuff. However, we spend so much time worrying about this two months before Christmas Day, and way too often, two months afterward, trying to pay off the spending sprees.
Out of Balance
Christmas is about this: Jesus. Jesus is God walking among us humans. He lived a perfect life in what most would consider poverty, but gave us so much. The gift of life is what Jesus delivers to us. It is not fair. We cannot work for it. It is uncomfortable and awkward to realize we cannot do anything to balance out the imbalance of what is offered. It is so great, this gift of life, we can never do anything or pay enough to deserve it, or to “pay it back.”
If you like sports, you choose to be a fan of your favorite team based on how well they play, particular players on the team, the history of the team, and very much influenced by your personal experiences related to the team. Some team fans have reputations of treating the visiting team’s fans so horribly, that everything up to and including physical harm are likely. You choose to be a fan of the team, not a fan of the fans. In the context of our leadership discussions, we can observe how Jesus’ leadership influenced those around Him, and continue to influence people today.
Why is it difficult to be “out of balance” in our accounts with others? What are the challenges you are facing?