“Life isn’t Fair”

Life isn’t fair.
That is one of the first things I remember learning from my folks.
When I would painfully scream about the size of my ice cream serving compared to my brother’s, they would calmly response. “Life isn’t fair.”
It seemed cold and unfeeling at the time.
But now I see how important that awareness is.
First off, it is true.
There is no line judge for the Game of Life. There is no umpire to blow a whistle when someone gets an unfair advantage.
It is just the reality. Before a child is born, the circumstances of their parents already play a massive role in the opportunities and challenges that await that child. A child born in Somalia will simply not have the same opportunities as one born in Santa Monica. My grandpa used to call this the “Obstetricianal Accident” that determines the country and social-economic class of our birth. (Some would argue that this is no accident at all – but just a logical result of karmic cycles. More on that later.)

Some cultures have legal systems that try to soften the most obscene of the inequalities, but they are surface fixes to much deeper issues. Just because opportunities are equal under the law, doesn’t mean that things are fair.
Compared to 50 years ago, cultural discrimination around the world (in most situations) has improved. But even though the inequality heals more every day, even a fully healed culture will have the scars of old beliefs forever.
But the truth is that EVERYONE has their own specific set of gifts as well as obstacles. Even siblings growing up under the same roof can have vastly different opportunities. In many cultures, just being born second, or female, can make all the difference in the world.
It is not fair.
And that doesn’t even touch upon the incredibly unfair biology that is handed out person to person. Some are faster, some are smarter. Some are faster, smarter, stronger, AND were born into economic wealth.
None of it is fair.
While there is no denying that certain circumstances create more obstacles, it is important to remember that getting an unfair advantage is not necessarily a good thing.
In an old South park episode, they show the debilitating effects the being unfairly good looking can have on your personality. When everyone laughs at your jokes and agrees with you because they have a crush on you, it creates a skewed sense of self and warped understanding of the world. The path of the pretty person may be easier, but that doesn’t mean it leads to good things.
Often it takes adversity to awaken the truly wonderful things inside us.
When scientists set up the BioDome project, they tried to create a fully enclosed environment – with plants, water, and animals all isolated and contained under a massive dome. After a period of time, the tallest trees starting falling over and scientists were stumped. They figured out that the trees, even with all the sun and water they required – did not develop properly. Without the blowing wind, the trees’ root structures did not grow deep and strong. Without the daily “struggles” of gusts and storms, the tree did not develop the necessarily support system to support the adult tree.
People, just like trees, *need* obstacles to build their strength. And actually, from this perspective, one can shift their view of obstacles themselves. If a challenge is required for growth, then it isn’t an obstacle at all – but a classroom and stepping stone.
From this perspective is it more “unfair” to have an easy childhood? Or a challenge-filled one?
It quickly becomes clear that – like so much in life – we are in no position to judge.
All we can do is work with what we’ve got. And do the best we can.
It can be tempting to feel sorry for people with fewer advantages. Don’t do it!
We have no vantage point to know what anyone’s life is supposed to look like – including our own. Think of a great person you consider a hero. Would they have become the person they did with a different life story?
Sometimes when I am overwhelmed with a struggle in my life I try to visualize my life as a book. What kind of book would I want my life to be? Would I want to be a boring tale with minimal conflict? Or a grand epic with massive highs and lows?
Another tendency is to feel guilty for the unfair blessings in your life. If you slip into this perspective, try to replace that feeling with gratitude immediately. Imagine if you gave someone a gift and they say, “oh! No, you shouldn’t! It’s too much! Take it back!” It would rob you of the joy of giving the gift. (More on this in the “Gifting” chapter)
Instead learn to receive joyfully and simply acknowledge your gratitude. Instead of feeling bad and trying to dismiss the gift, feel good and exalt it. When you embrace a gift, it energizes you and gives you’re the resources to “pay it forward.” Imagine that all your advantages AND challenges are prerequisites for the role you play in the Universe – whatever that may be. Feeling guilty for the gifts of your birth would be like a bird feeling guilty for it’s song.
If you feel disadvantaged – imagine all your struggles as a cosmic classroom.
If you feel over-privileged – imagine your resources as tools of the Universe.
Life isn’t fair.
Thank God.
Feb 15, 2010

4 thoughts on ““Life isn’t Fair””

  1. John,
    It’s a beautiful essay. For me, I feel that you have expounded upon a phrase I once heard a poet speak: If love is life, then life would be fair (Terrel Moore). By the way, I’ve been trying on the F-M-S-L part of your motto recently. Challenging for me!
    Best Regards,

  2. This sure brought back memories for me, my mother was a huge fan of that saying. In fact I think that was the most repeated saying I heard as a kid, HA! I think she was onto something but I also believe that everything happens as it should, all the time, so maybe it actually IS fair even if it seems unfair. If everything was fair and harmonious how boring would life be. We need tough times to make the great ones seem even more magical. Your blog is addicting, you have a great speaking ability, it’s so hard for me to express my spirituality into words! Maybe hearing/reading you doing it so well will rub off one me, I can only hope. 🙂

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