Fairness vs. Justice

He has told you, O man, what is good;
And what does the Lord require of you
But to do justice, to love [a]kindness,
And to walk [b]humbly with your God?” (NASB)

I have been considering the depth and meaning of Micah 6:8 and how it relates to my role as a nurse educator.  My introduction to a formal leadership role was anything but pleasant.  I found myself in a daily struggle between what I considered just and ethical and the realities of my role.  After almost a year of this uncomfortable, and often painful, struggle, I was unable to reconcile my personal beliefs, values, and standards to fulfill the expectations and I chose to step down.  After much prayer and soul-searching, I realized that, as a Christian, I could not sacrifice my values & standards, nor could I go against what I know to be true as a nurse scientist and nurse educator.  While I am at peace with my decision, I still struggle with the fact that I was not able to affect change within the organization and that the issues contributing to a less-than optimal learning environment continue to exist.

One of my biggest struggles was with the concepts of “justice” and “fairness”.  I fully embrace justice as both a leader and an educator.  I do not believe everyone should be treated equally without consideration of performance.  I also believe in being fair, but I see a distinct difference in the two.  Unfortunately, this is not a popular idea among many of my colleagues.  Many organizations embrace a  very rigid adherence to policy, which I learned is often a response to  conflict and unhealthy work environments. It is also a much easier stance for the leader when faced with difficult decisions.  This can result in an atmosphere filled with mistrust, gossip, negativity, and general apathy.  As a result of my experiences, I have come to a much better understanding of Aristotle’s quote:

There is nothing so unequal as the equal treatment of unequals.” ~ Aristotle

Today I came across this article by Randy Conley, an expert in the world of leadership, specifically regarding trust.  I encourage everyone who is in leadership or aspires to lead, to take the time to read it here.  You can also read about the distinct differences between “fairness” and “justice” here.  There IS a difference.  For educators this means we must take the time, energy, and effort to make decisions based on the individual context and relevance of the situation.  Many of my colleagues will disagree, especially those who follow a more socialistic educational paradigm.  However, I believe it is worth the time, energy, and effort to approach each situation individually, exploring the principles of justice, as well as  other ethical principles.

As a Christian nurse educator and researcher, I must look to God for guidance in all of my actions.  Micah 6:8 has become a daily reminder of God’s perspective on how I should approach my roles: do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God.  This is what I strive to do.

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