“There is but one law for all, namely, that law which governs all law, the law of our Creator, the law of humanity, justice, equity . . .” (Edmund Burke).
EQUITY IS JUSTICE OR FAIRNESS. But equity emphasizes one particular aspect of justice, and that is its impartiality. The word “equity” comes from the same Latin root as the word “equal.” It refers to the equal application of the rules of justice to one and all. And that, as we all know, is one of the leading qualities of genuine fairness.
Double standards are, I fear, more of a plague upon our society than we realize. We simply don’t see how often we apply a stricter standard to others than we apply to ourselves. We don’t see how often we criticize “the other side” for actions that, if we did the very same thing, would not be thought objectionable. And we don’t acknowledge how often certain segments of our society get preferential treatment.
Equity, however, gets rid of double standards. “What’s good for the goose is good for the gander” — so I should be willing to apply to myself the exact same rules I apply to everybody else.
It’s easy to say these things, but in practice, equity is often hard to determine because it requires sorting out many different factors, conflicting priorities, and competing claims. If you think a judge’s job is easy, you’ve probably never had to do it. The difficulty of justice and equity is why Solomon, when he became king of Israel, asked God for wisdom. His prayer is recorded in the First Book of Kings: “So give your servant a discerning mind so he can make judicial decisions for your people and distinguish right from wrong. Otherwise no one is able to make judicial decisions for this great nation of yours” (NET).
In our daily affairs, we all need the same thing Solomon needed: wisdom. And there is no shortcut to wisdom. It takes, first, seeing its value, and then patiently acquiring it. As with most skills, we get better at judging by doing it — and we had better be doing it. There is no more important work. We can’t live well in this world without equity, and we can’t learn equity without constant practice.
To know wisdom and instruction,
To perceive the words of understanding,
To receive the instruction of wisdom,
Justice, judgment, and equity.
(The Book of Proverbs)