When Life Is Not Fair

Yael Eckstein  |  July 3, 2023

Elderly distraught woman leaning over with head propped up with her arm

All share a common destiny—the righteous and the wicked, the good and the bad, the clean and the unclean, those who offer sacrifices and those who do not.

            As it is with the good,
                so with the sinful;
            as it is with those who take oaths,
                so with those who are afraid to take them.
— Ecclesiastes 9:2 

This month, we will look at the theme of justice as one of the bedrock principles of our Judeo-Christian values. Enjoy!

The other day, my daughter was complaining that her little brother wasn’t helping her tidy up the toys. “Clean up nicely, or no one will get to watch a show before bed,” I threatened. “But it’s not fair!” came the familiar cry. “I’m cleaning up, why should I get punished?”

Of course, in a perfect world, my daughter would be right. But, as we are forced to teach our kids from an early age, sometimes life’s simply not fair!

It turns out, my children are not the first to be struck by the seeming injustice in the world. In Ecclesiastes, King Solomon admits: “All share a common destiny—the righteous and the wicked, the good and the bad… As it is with the good, so with the sinful…”

In other words, regardless of the nature of our actions, we all experience the same fate. People who try their hardest to do the right thing may have terrible challenges, while those who couldn’t care less may enjoy an easy life. 

When Life Is Not Fair

While there are many lessons we can glean from this reality, perhaps the most important is that we are all in this together. The saints and the sinners sail through the stormy seas of life on the same rickety boat, and it is up to each of us to make sure we all get to our final destination safely. As the Rabbinic Sages teach, “All Israel are responsible for one another.” While this is true for the Jewish people, I believe it can be extended to all of humanity. 

Back at home, despite the seeming injustice, my daughter turned to her little brother with a defeated sigh and said, “I’ll clean up all the red and yellow blocks, and you clean up the blue and green ones. Then tonight, we’ll both get to watch a show together.” 

When life is not fair, instead of fuming at the injustice and abandoning the ship completely, we can help one another choose goodness.

Your Turn:

How do you respond when life is not fair? Share your comments below!