It Might Sound Innocent, but Don’t Let Your Kids Say This Phrase

There is a phrase in our vocabulary that nobody has to teach us to say. It’s a phrase kids learn very quickly in childhood. And it’s a phrase you should ban in your household:

“That’s not fair.”

It sounds innocent enough. Everybody wants life to be fair, right?

But this is an insidious phrase, revealing a sin so bankrupt it goes back to the very beginning, back to the Fall of Man. It’s essentially what Eve was told by the serpent. “You’re getting a raw deal. You’re entitled to more. God is holding out on you.”

If you read Paul’s account of the Fall in Romans, you’ll discover that it was this attitude—ingratitude and entitlement—that lit the match of sin, plunging Creation into darkness. And it’s a surefire way to test your own heart, to see where the idols are.

Maybe it seems a bit melodramatic to bring all of this up to my four children, ages 2, 4, 5, and 9. But I fear that if I allow them to embed entitlement in their little hearts right now, their first reaction to someone else getting an extra dessert, a gift from a friend, a new pair of shoes, is “That’s not fair.”

And so we don’t allow this in our home. And when it comes up, my kids know they are in for some form of punishment, which usually involves a long-winded soliloquy from Dad that goes something like this:

First, you are right in saying that life isn’t fair.

Because it’s not fair that little children go to bed hungry this very night, having eaten nothing but a handful of rice and here you’ve just had seconds on french fries. It’s not fair that some boys and girls grow up without a mother and father, orphaned by a war they didn’t start. It’s not fair that some children won’t even see many birthdays, succumbing to diseases we treat with immunizations and routine trips to the doctor.

So if there is a complaining about being fair, it’s you and me and all of us in prosperous, free America on the other side of “Not fair.” So in the line of people complaining about a bad lot in life, we are several zip codes away from the front.

Most of the world is pointing to us and saying, “Life isn’t fair” and they have a much better case.

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Daniel Darling
Daniel Darling is the Vice President for Communications for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention (ERLC). For five years, Dan served as Senior Pastor of Gages Lake Bible Church in the northwest suburbs of Chicago and is the author of several books, including Teen People of the Bible, Crash Course, iFaith, Real, and his latest, Activist Faith. He and his wife Angela have four children and reside in the Nashville area.