Flexibility is needed because people have different levels of skills, knowledge and interests. Some people take on a lot of responsibility and are prepared to do things others don’t want to do. Our sense of fairness allows for people to be rewarded according to what they do, without causing feelings of inferiority or superiority. However, people getting more, or less, than what is fair may cause anger or resentment, or both, which too often leads to violence.
In real life, of course, it isn’t possible for everyone to have an equal share all the time, or even for a short time, so fairness is more like 'everyone having an equal opportunity to obtain an equal share' of whatever, and it’s each person’s choice as to how much effort is put into getting that equal share. It’s also true that many people lack the confidence or skills to gain an equal share so, to be fair, something needs to be done about that.
Fairness can be coupled with safety to guide decision-making based on equality, to include social, religious, educational, recreational, and economic fairness; as well as physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual safety. Equality relies heavily on being aware of the needs of those around you and being willing to help people meet their needs.
Being guided by fairness and safety for making agreements, resolving conflicts or setting limits means that you can always explain why a decision was made, and those who helped make the decision are more likely to keep to it.
In a group setting, such as a family, everyone has a sense of involvement and if the decision isn’t perfect, they know that the effort was made to meet the fairness and safety needs of everyone involved. And if someone is still unhappy, all they have to do is come up with something fairer or safer and it will be adopted. Parents have endless opportunities to teach, guide and assist children to understand the reasons for the existence of rules and why they should be followed. I have been amazed by how early in life children respond positively to the fairness and safety reasons for what adults want them to do, or not do.
Adults remain calmer in conflict situations when they know the fairness and safety reasons behind their opinions or decisions and are willing to alter their stand if a fairer and safer alternative is suggested.
Bob Myers, author of Travelling the Road of Peace and Happiness.