Life Ain’t Fair. Get Over It.

by Ashley on March 5, 2012

I’m embarrassed to admit I still struggle with this.

All my life, my mother, bless her heart, she always made things “fair” between my younger sister and me. Sounds heavenly, doesn’t it? Neither girl got more presents at Christmas or more dessert after dinner. We alternated evenings getting to drink milk out of the favored blue cup, and we took turns taking the first shower. Once, when I won a store coloring contest and received a gift certificate, my mom bought my sister a smaller version of the Popple (remember those?!) that I bought with my hard-earned money (well, not that hard – I just had to stay in the lines).

Although that might seem like the fairest thing for a loving mother to do, it really turned out to my disadvantage. At the time, I didn’t have the opportunity to enjoy the fact that I earned a prize for a job well done. I learned, instead, that life must be fair and that no one should ever have to feel jealous or cheated because someone else received something (deservedly or no, earned or a gift) that others did not also receive. And so it was that I continued to grow older in a world that I believed was, and ought to be, fair.

Then, reality checked in. I don’t know when it was that my father, bless his heart, first informed me that life was indeed unfair and was always meant to be so. What a shock that fact came to my sheltered ears. Nevertheless, as soon as any unfair incident had passed with some degree of time, I quietly resumed my belief that life indeed was fair and that aforementioned unfair incident was only a fluke, an aberration of nature.

In high school, the incidents of unfairness came at an increasingly faster rate and I began to realize, to the horror of my teenage ego, my dad might have actually been right.

Now, I’m at a point where I do believe wholeheartedly that life is not fair and that sometimes, perhaps most times, the unfair occurrences outnumber the fair ones. But even this realization and the understanding of it has not lessened the pain and indignation I still feel in the face of unfairness.

The word “fair” crosses my lips frequently enough that I know I am far from acceptance. I’m still in denial, and I need to grow up.

Someone told me recently that I needed to “let it go.” Let go of worrying about whether a situation is fair – it won’t change the situation. Being mad won’t make people act any differently. They won’t apologize, see the error of their ways, and miraculously become kind, tolerant, honest, loving, strong, smart, less rushed, less argumentative, or less annoying. Being angry about unfairness only makes me angry and frustrated, solves nothing, and reduces my ability to deal with the facts at hand.

I try a few different methods to deal with unfairness:

1. Accept that the situation is unfair.

This is the hardest of all for me. As simple as it sounds, accepting – and not just an acknowledgement but a real acceptance – that the situation is just not fair goes a long way toward being able to take the next steps in dealing with the issue. Take a deep breath, close your eyes for a minute. Remind yourself that life is not fair and instead of worrying about that, just figure out what to do next.

2. Put yourself in the other person’s shoes.

I rarely find myself feeling bitter or resentful if nature is the cause of my unpleasant situation. It always seems to be when another seemingly rational human being – with feelings and emotions and understanding of pain – is the source of my unhappiness. After all, that person should not behave that way because they also understand the concept of “fair.” But they’re only looking at it from their perspective. So to cope, I try that, too. What’s their motivation? Could there be unknown factors in play, things that affect their decisions I don’t know about? For me, I always think to myself when someone cuts me off in traffic that the inconsiderate driver might be working for a boss who has threatened to fire him if he is late again. Maybe his wife is in the back seat, seconds away from giving birth. And maybe one day, it will be true.

3. Resolve that you will never do that unfair thing to someone else.

We all believe in the Golden Rule when it refers to others’ treatment of us. Right? But how often do we actively make decisions and adopt behaviors as a result of resolving to treat others as we want to be treated? Let’s decide to make the world a little better than we found it.

I’m far from being good at these things, but I’m working at it.

A wise woman once told me that I ought to be glad life isn’t fair. God has certainly been kinder to me than I deserve. When I remember that, I’m always happy that life isn’t fair.

How do you deal with unfairness?


Mostly I accept, except, of course, when I don’t. Meditation helps – in the sense that it helps level me out in many ways. And I reserve the right to mutter!

by Anne Wayman on March 5, 2012 at 12:00 pm. Reply #

I do too much muttering, Anne! Well, mine is more like whining. And it never helps. Imagine that 😉

by Ashley on March 5, 2012 at 7:26 pm. Reply #

I LOVE the blog and am so happy to read your thoughts–it helps me feel closer to you than all these miles allow.

As you may guess, I deal with unfairness primarily by finding something about which to laugh … heartily. Then I say, “Lord help.”

I roll my eyes while I wait for the Lord’s assistance. Sometimes I breathe deeply, but more often than not I steam and stew. Then I probably utter a few wirty dords (I actually think that should be “derds” but I digress as usual).

This is immediately followed by, “Lord help. Also forgive my potty mouth but you knew it was coming anyway.” And then I laugh again 🙂

by Danita on March 5, 2012 at 1:02 pm. Reply #

Stewing must be my middle name, because I do way too much of that. At least I’m not alone in my struggle. Miss you, girl!

by Ashley on March 5, 2012 at 7:28 pm. Reply #

I repeat the Serenity Prayer through gritted teeth. (Well, sometimes, anyway). There are times when I struggle with this too.

by Sharon Hurley Hall on March 5, 2012 at 3:43 pm. Reply #

Haha that reminds me of that crazy Seinfeld episode where George’s dad keeps screaming SERENITY NOW!

by Ashley on March 5, 2012 at 7:30 pm. Reply #

I rest on the love that Jesus has for me knowing that there is nothing I can ever do to deserve anything, good or bad, because He already paid the price on the cross.

This is easier said than done, but I have found that the more I try to change a behavior, feeling or emotion, the more I fail and the more frustrated I become. It is only when I rest in Jesus knowing that He loves me dearly and unconditionally, regardless of my actions, that I see change in my life.

Love you chica, and I love the blog.

by Vero on March 7, 2012 at 10:07 am. Reply #

Hey! Love the blog and sharing of thoughts! I think in my real life I still sometimes fall into the “it’s not fair” mind trap too. However, I try to remind myself of what I preached to my first graders in the Bronx. Fair is not everyone getting the same thing. Fair is everyone getting what they need! Not sure where I heard that wisdom from originally, but I like it, especially in working with children. I think it can be translated into most things adult as well. And then some things that might not seem fair, like a driver cutting someone off, I would venture are more about rudeness than fairness! 🙂

by Anna Shaw on March 8, 2012 at 9:47 pm. Reply #

Hi Anna! Thanks for stopping by. It seems especially difficult to deal with unfairness as children because youngsters haven’t yet learned that “life’s not fair” bit. Yours seems like a good piece of wisdom for teaching them gently about that hard reality.

by Ashley on March 9, 2012 at 5:16 pm. Reply #

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