I’ve been thinking about this recently because I find that I return to this idea again and again in my writing. It matters whether my main characters are treating others fairly as well as whether my characters are being fairly treated.
This shouldn’t be a surprise. Research suggests that almost from birth, toddlers recognise the importance of treating others fairly—of the value of respecting rules. Kids notice unequal treatment. Kids who play fairly with each other enjoy the experience more, and if kids get along well together they have a greater sense of belonging. Belonging helps you grow and thrive.
As we get older, fair play becomes a constant in life—competitive sport, the creative arts, education, work, any field of endeavour you care to name. If competition is fair and participants are treated equally it means you are judged on your efforts. Winning is based on your merits not on some rigged system or deceptive trick—think hobbling a competitor in a match or stealing someone’s idea or taking credit for someone else’s work. I’m with you screaming from the sidelines—“that’s not fair”.
Fair play is an aspect of integrity—a fine quality for any self-respecting character. Teaching people tolerance and respect for others can build better relationships and help individuals and communities recognise injustice and inequality; the opposite is conflict and division.
Fair play is essential to romance. Intimate relationships need give and take to survive, need both partners to contribute and compromise.
I know, I know. Exact fairness in any relationship is impossible. We each have our own ideas about what fairness is. However, if you consistently make the effort to be fair across all dimensions of the relationship, relationships tend to flourish. At least that’s what my characters tell me.