How do you act and behave when there is no one watching, when with absolute certainty you know that what you are doing is not being seen by anyone?
Are you honest with yourself? Do you play fair?
To consider these questions, begin by paying attention to the opportunities you have to “play fair” when alone. Are these actions (like chores), attitudes (are you being fair with your judgments?), something else?
Really, take some time to think about it.
You might discover that you, like most of us, engage in all kinds of silent negotiations, deals we make in our heads in which we decide that if we make the dinner we don’t have to do the dishes, that sort of thing. But are we playing fair if we don’t involve our housemates in these decisions?
Granted, the idea of “playing fair” is confusing. Especially as the stakes go up, like when a situation involves money. Have you ever been given back more change than you deserved when paying cash for an item? Found something valuable and decided to keep it?
Is it fair that one person was born to a family of means and another to a family in poverty? So enters politics in the conversation. I certainly think we’re getting pulled back and forth in the United States on the topic of playing fair by our elected officials.
For instance, was it fair for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to block Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland and then push through nominee Brett Kavanaugh? McConnell will say it was, that he was playing fair in doing what he thinks is in the greater interest of the country. Others will say it was nothing more than an unfair partisan power play.
So, indeed, playing fair is confusing.
As a person who makes his living working with children, I’ve long been fascinated by how we communicate the concept of “playing fair” to them. Words are one thing (“take turns,” we say) and actions are another (have our children ever seen us cut in line?). If we as adults rationalize playing fair when it serves us, it goes to follow that we aren’t too good about helping children understand it.
Now consider how those brave enough to step forward when an inequity has taken place are often ridiculed by being called names like busybody, troublemaker, blabbermouth, snitch, fink, squealer, stool pigeon, rat, or tattletale.
A tattletale is someone who acts out of self-interest, for some kind of unhealthy gain. That’s not playing fair. But anyone, child or adult, who stands up when something is not right is not a tattletale and does not deserve to be ridiculed, threatened, and shamed. Such a person is acting with integrity, the root of playing fair.
Think of it this way: Are you being a snitch or a tattletale when you call the police to report a crime you are witnessing? Are you a blabbermouth when you bring forward illegal or unethical behavior in your place of business?
I found inspiration on this topic from Parker Palmer’s book “A Hidden Wholeness, The Journey Toward an Undivided Life.” Early on, Palmer shares the story of Cynthia Cooper, Coleen Rowley and Sherron Watkins who at the end of 2002 were named Time Magazine’s “Persons of the Year.”
Do you know who these three women are? As Parker says, “They were honored for confronting corruption at WorldCom, the FBI, and Enron, respectively.” Learn more here.
So I bring you back to the question I posed as the title of this article. Who are you constantly?
As a final dose of consideration, I offer you this 6-minute video. Believe me, you won’t be sorry you watched it.