Sermon: The myth of fairness


In a recent “Music and Spoken Word” television and radio broadcast with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, narrator Lloyd Newell* began with this question:

“Have you ever heard this protest from a child: ‘IT ISN’T FAIR!’

“When a cake or pie needs to be cut up and shared among siblings, children love to carefully scrutinize each piece to ensure they get their fair share. This might make parents smile, but how often do we do the same as grownups? Do we sometimes scrutinize others’ lives and compare them with our own? This can lead to a feeling that life owes us something; we feel entitled to exactly the same blessings everybody else has. We look around and see people who seem to have perfect health, perfect families, or an abundance of material wealth, and we might wonder why they got a bigger slice of the pie than we did.

“Of course, challenges and adversities, blessings and opportunities, never match point for point. Measuring our happiness against what others appear to have is rarely an accurate comparison anyway. For one thing, we don’t know the details of people’s lives or the hidden burdens they carry. And if we did, we might be surprised how blessed we really are in comparison.

“When two little boys came to their mother complaining that life wasn’t fair, she sat down with them and taught them about all the people who had no shoes, no opportunity for education, no loving family to care for them, and very little food to eat. One boy caught the message and realized that if life really were fair, his life might be quite different. ‘I guess I’m lucky life isn’t fair,’ he said. He didn’t lose his desire for fairness, but after that, it no longer led him to want more for himself; rather it inspired him to reach out in compassion to the less fortunate.

“Yes, life often is unfair — unusually in our favor. But even when we do have troubles that seem unmerited, even when we have problems and worries that seem overwhelming, it might help to take a moment to enlarge our perspective. This may include humbly counting our blessings and giving thanks for the good things we have. More often than not, such thoughts inspire us to make life just a little more fair by sharing our blessings with others.”

The lesson is so very applicable to our times. When the measuring stick of success and happiness is often deemed by material acquisitions, prestige, power and self-promotion via social media, it would be well to remember to count our blessings, knowing we are indeed very blessed. Remembering in fact that, “life often is unfair — unusually in our favor.”

* “Spoken Word” messages by Lloyd Newell an be found online in current and past archives by going to musicandthespokenword.org

K.C. Rasmussen, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

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