The ability to play fair is not inherent in the character of individuals but must be cultivated and must grow just as any other process of education. It involves not only a sound sense of justice, but also a reasonable amount of good judgment and an ability to maintain self-control and to avoid personal prejudice for or against individuals. In other words fair play results from the right attitude of an individual fully as much as from his actions.
The Golden Rule requires that we should do unto others as we would have them do to us, but it can readily be understood that if we would like others to render us more than justice and to give us things that we have not earned, that we would then be very injudicious and unwise in trying to follow the example of the Golden Rule. The Golden Rule presumes an intelligent understanding of what we should expect from others and it is this application of the Golden Rule that is important.
If we could learn to think in terms of fair play, which means that you expect nothing less than justice and fairness from your friends, and nothing more than the same things from your enemies, as well as from other individuals who are not included in either classification.
Much has been said of fair play as it involves other individuals, but little consideration has been given to the necessity of an individual playing fair with himself. For instance, the average boy and man start out with fair intentions and it could almost be taken for granted that practically all individuals would prefer to play fair. In certain circumstances, however, the problem of financial gain, of business advancement, or the attainment of some personally important objective induces individuals to take unfair advantage of other individuals along certain lines. In doing this they are being false to their own true character and their code of ethics, and a continuation along these lines would ultimately result in an absolute change of character and a complete abandonment of their code of ethics. In this connection it should be remembered that a code of ethics is not an individual possession, that there is not one code of ethics for one individual and another code of ethics for another individual. It is not possible for an individual to choose certain principles to follow and call it a code of ethics unless these principles embrace all of the traits of character and codes of conduct that are necessary to make him dependable and reliable.
A man cannot say that he will avoid murder, burglary, robbery, and many other of the gravest crimes, but reserve the right to deceive people in certain ways that will bring him profits or benefits.
Every man is bound to make mistakes as to questions of judgment and justice in the course of his life. All of us will commit acts that are wrong or unwise, sometimes intentionally and other times without recognizing our shortcomings. But the important element to consider has to do with the intention of the man, the method and manner of his act, and the desire afterwards to correct his mistakes or to atone for any damage inflicted upon others.
We are not all gifted with the ability to judge quickly and clearly, especially in times of emotional crises, but our real intentions can always be measured by the efforts that we make to remedy our mistakes and to make up for our shortcomings and our departure from our code of ethics. However, most of our speech and actions are reasonably calculated and thought out beforehand and it can safely be said that under normal conditions the average man who has the sincere intent to play fair can find both the good judgment and sense of justice that will enable him to do so.
The greatest obstacle in the path of the average man arises from a distorted personal viewpoint due to love, affection, friendship and personal liking for certain individuals, as well as to suspicion, contempt, aversion, dislike, and sometimes even hatred in his attitude toward other individuals. It is hard to be just and fair as between a person that we love and another individual that we dislike, and yet it is possible for the average man to be fair under such conditions by removing from his mind the personality of the individuals affected.
If he would merely take the circumstances themselves, the speech and action to be considered and substitute in his mind two other individuals in whom he is not interested he would then be able to be fair in his judgment of the situation. The real obstacle does not lie in the inability of a man to be fair under such conditions but in the lack of desire on his part for fair play. He wants to believe that the person he loves is in the right and that the person that he dislikes is in the wrong and, this desire being in his heart, it is comparatively easy for him to be unfair from the standpoint of justice as well as good judgment.
If we could only realize that we take our friends and our loved ones as they are, with their faults as well as their virtues, and that we do not have to pretend to ourselves that their mistakes and wrongful actions should be condoned in order to preserve the friendship. In other words we do not have to believe that everything that our friends do is right. They can still be excellent friends and still do many things that are wrong, just as we ourselves may do.
On the other hand, because we recognize wrongful acts and condemn the act does not mean that we condemn our friends also. We should never acknowledge that a wrong is right because it is committed by someone we love, but we should also never condemn someone we love because of minor faults and shortcomings. If we really and truly love someone or have a deep friendship for someone, we actually harm them by exhibiting favoritism and trying to benefit them at the expense of others.
We have a perfect right to give freely to those we love, but not in such a manner or in a way that will render them weak, inefficient, dependent or irresponsible. When we do such things we are not playing fair with our friends and loved ones. We are teaching them to be weak instead of strong, whereas we should impart whatever strength of character we are able to transmit to those we love, so that the? may become as strong and as self-reliant as ourselves, if not more so. Especially is this true with those individuals who seem to be most helpless, our children.
Almost from babyhood a child should be taught to be as self-reliant as its capabilities will permit. A child’s character should be strengthened by every possible reasonable method that parents can think of. Children should be taught from an early age to play fair and to be able to enjoy games and sports if they lose, practically as much as if they win.
It is comparatively easy to teach children these things as they are very adaptive and almost super-intelligent in detecting sincerity and soundness of judgment in the advice that is given them. It might be said that the only thing necessary is for the parents to have the proper viewpoint themselves and the sincere desire to make their children strong and self-reliant.
Many parents actually help to keep their children dependent on the parents; they try to fight the children’s battles for them instead of teaching them the proper thing to do under certain conditions that arise. They want to take the part of their own children as against other children and it is often true that this very attitude of the parents would indicate that their own children were in the wrong instead of their playmates about whom they complain.
Children must be taught that at certain times and under certain conditions they will meet with injustice and oppression from other individuals who are stronger, more powerful, more dominating or more fortunately situated than themselves, and that their problem is not to bring these other individuals down to their own level, from the standpoint of force or strength, but to be able to rise above such individuals and to either hold their own with them or to intelligently avoid further association.
In thinking about children’s problems in this respect it must always be remembered that some of the so-called nicest children turn out to be terrible “flops” as adult men and women, while on the other hand, a certain boy who might have acquired the reputation of being the most annoying boy in the neighborhood might turn out to be one of the finest young men in the community. Final judgment therefore should not be rendered against children because of unfortunate conditions that may cause them to be mischievous and troublesome. At the same time care should be taken to see that our own children do not acquire the habits and the attitude of such other children while they are in such transition periods.
American citizens are fortunate in having an inheritance of good sports and games of skill, and it therefore should not require anything more than careful attention to carry these same principles and ethics into our other relations with people in our other activities. In teaching our children to be strong and self-reliant one of our greatest helps will be to teach them to think of other activities in life in the same way as they do their sports and games. Practically nothing else is really required to induce the average child to play fair and they can probably understand what fair play means to a far greater extent than their parents would believe possible.
However, it must never be forgotten that the parents must themselves set an example of fair play for their children to follow, for children are far more likely to emulate their parents’ example than they are to follow their advice, especially when the advice and the example fail to coincide. Fair play in the game of life necessitates a code of ethics translated into rules and regulations that are readily understandable. In a future message these rules and regulations will be expounded under a code of fair play for the education and the understanding of each of us as individuals.
The ability to play fair is a cardinal virtue. Without it, a man cannot hope for real success or happiness. With it, he can not only count on success and happiness, but he can also count on the respect and friendship of his fellow men and the satisfaction and pride that comes to every man who knows he has helped many and harmed no one, and has brought happiness and pleasure to his loved ones.
H. B. MONJAR – August, 1936