Tag Archives: fairness

Life isn’t fair (apparently)

A few weeks ago I was dealing with a problem that I discussed with a couple of people. In the course of conversation, one of these people told me what she’d said to her children when they were growing up:

“Life isn’t fair. Get over it.”

I can see where on face that might seem a bit hard by today’s standards. I don’t mean to suggest she said it for no reason or to be mean; I gathered it was in response to something her kids said, maybe about a perceived injustice in or outside the home. I can further tell you, so far as I know, she launched all of her children, who are now well into adulthood, successfully into the world. I think she was equipping them. Maybe they’d say differently if they could weigh in on the conversation, I don’t know.

The phrase has stuck in my mind. I even feel had I heard something like that as a child, I might have been better for it. I heard LOTS of uncharitable and hard statements but none that truly seemed like a life lesson, which this does. This statement says a lot, though. It’s saying indirectly that life’s unfairness isn’t personal. Further, it’s the active part of the statement that means something extra: Get over it. That implies you – the child – can, that you have power in the situation and aren’t haplessly being knocked about without recourse. That’s how it sounds to me.

I finally figured out today what has been nagging at me about this. I learned very early that things weren’t fair in my family (and not just things that, as an adult, I can write off to the limited perspective of a child). What I couldn’t understand was why I didn’t then grasp and accept that life out in the larger world isn’t fair. Why do I keep railing over injustices? Stewing over mistreatment? Getting upset about the behavior of thoughtless, selfish, or cruel people? What I think now is that the lesson was limited to the house I grew up in; it didn’t translate. It wasn’t a life lesson. I didn’t get life lessons. I learned house lessons. Family lessons. They were environment-specific which is how I took them, not extrapolating to life in general.

Maybe I hoped the larger world would be different, or should have been. Maybe I was still optimistic. I don’t think that’s entirely a terrible idea, believing in fairness. I don’t want to walk around thinking that most people or institutions will do the shitty thing, the unfair thing, given half a chance, and yet, continuing to be surprised or taken aback when something is lousy or unfair is not self-serving. It’s ME that it bothers, not the jackass(es) perpetuating the unfairness. It seems like a very fine balance to achieve and live with on an ongoing basis. I suppose a phrase like “Assume the best, prepare for the worst” might be apropos. Nobody taught me that either, but it feels like high time I teach myself. Anyway, I’m tempted to write the first phrase, “Life isn’t fair. Get over it” and put it up on the wall where I will see it and remember.

I feel like I was born knowing certain things

There are concepts or ideas I feel I was born knowing. It’s been quite awhile, but when I went to college I took plenty of Social Sciences classes where I studied the basic theories and philosophies of personality/character development. None of them truly addressed what I mean.

I have long been profoundly interested in the ideas of truth and fairness. We can rule out these being emphasized in my childhood at home or school, because they weren’t, not really – I heard oodles of rhetoric and dogma, but in relatively short order saw and experienced the hollowness of both. I didn’t know the word then, but had a front seat and a bowl of popcorn for repeated viewings of Hypocrisy 101. Even though I was a child, many things I saw didn’t sit right.

A second obvious possibility is that I became interested in truth and fairness as a reaction to their absence, i.e., I witnessed or felt impacted by their lack, and so made the search for them my life’s mission. I’m not going to toss anyone out of the room for suggesting as much because there IS an element or three of that at work in my psyche. I experienced things then that I’m still trying to correct now as I go about my life in the greater world.

What I’m talking about however, transcends mere reactionary railing against perceived wrongs, whether against me or others. There are just certain…things, for lack of a more eloquent, spot-on word, I feel I’ve always known. For some readers, that assertion could skew too closely to Mysticism or New Age beliefs. I don’t think of myself in those terms and don’t typically relate to much of what I hear from their respective camps. (If nothing else, my skeptical, smart-assery and irreverent natures would deny my membership.)

Whatever that quality was in me, whatever I was born knowing or being, I can tell you there was no guile in it. I was like a little laser when it came to all things true and fair, and it never occurred to me to hide it or otherwise be manipulative. My life probably would have gone smoother if I had been slicker because adults, the ones I dealt with anyway, were not so enamored of these particular qualities. Let me revisit that last statement. The adults were okay with it so long as they thought I was reflecting their mantras and dogmas, so long as my qualities, including this profound attraction to truth and fairness, “passed” if you will, for something that fit into their schematic. The older I got and the more I threw off the (artificial to me) belief systems that I was surrounded by, the more obvious it became that this kid isn’t like us (and is therefore wrong). I never believed it. The power of feeling you’ve always known something, were born knowing something both right and good, is sturdy stuff.