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Wednesday, 7 December 2011

"It's Just Not Fair"

"We have no right to ask, when sorrow comes, 'Why did this happen to me?' unless we ask the same question for every joy that comes our way." Philip S Bernstein

There are certain lessons we learn our whole lives through. Patterns, habits, thoughts and actions we fall into again and again and again and then feel like giving ourselves a smack on the forehead as we think in exasperation (or sometimes despair) "Didn't I learn this last time around?!"

Many of us live under the illusion that life needs to be "fair" to us. When something isn't fair, we experience numerous reactions: childish petulance, outraged hurt, anger or we find ourselves falling into despair, anxiety, fear, a spiral of negative emotions...

When our precious sense of fair is tampered with, we often lash out at others, God, ourselves, in the immaturity of our understanding.

Where does our sense of entitlement come from?

There are many, many things in life, the world and history that aren't fair. Horrendous things happen to good and innocent people and good things happen to misguided, cruel, and evil people. Why are we always surprised anew by this as though the world has always been a haven of fairness and justice and our experience is the first of its kind? Perhaps because we were created with a deep craving for justice? Created with an innate sense of dignity that in a perfect world would always be respected and valued? Or less lofty but worth mentioning, because we are essentially selfish beings who have difficulty rising above a situation that hurts us, looking at it from angles other than "it's unfair"?

It isn't wrong to think things like "Why me?" or "It just isn't fair.". But it can't end there...those thoughts need to be the beginning of a journey toward a broader and more enlightened understanding of the situation. We can choose to step out of the role and mentality of being a perpetual victim and into one of maturity, grace, and acceptance.

I think that overcoming the idea of unfairness is a lifelong battle. I didn't think it was fair for example when shortly after learning my husband and I would never have biological children, I read a story in the newspaper announcing that Karla Homolka was pregnant. (For those of you unfamiliar with the name, she and her husband together raped, tortured and murdered many teen age girls and women, her own sister among them.) That is when the absurdidty of it struck me most intensely. I had been telling myself that I didn't deserve children, I wasn't fit to be a mother, all sorts of hurtful, self destructive things to be able to bear my own feeling of it being unfair. It struck me reading this piece of news that if Karla Homolka can get pregnant and have a baby, then fairness really has nothing to do with it and obviously neither then did the notion that I somehow wasn't fit to be a mother.

Eventually I reached a place where fair and unfair took on different and more perspective definitions. As we progressed in our first adoption journey, I came to understand fair is a bigger picture than what I can see and's so subjective. Instead of thinking "Why us? Why will we never have children of our own?" I slowly began to think "Why anybody? Why this mother in Sri Lanka who has to give up her child? Why this little boy? Why this hurting broken country?" None of it is really fair. The issue was so much larger than my initial "why me". I believe there are answers and most of the time the struggle is simply to think outside of ourselves. Let go of our sense of fair.


Katie said...

"We can choose to step out of the role and mentality of being a perpetual victim and into one of maturity, grace, and acceptance."

Well said. Whenever I find myself thinking "why me?" I try to turn it around and think "why NOT me?" instead. Why do I deserve a life free from suffering when no one else has that?

Good post!

Brian Miller said...

well someone has been reading my mail...smiles...had a bit of a temper tantrum with god last night along there lines...

Serene said...

Colleen, wonderful post and so very true. When my mom was sick and dying, she and I had the conversation about her illness and we agreed that we could not say that it wasn't fair that she would be gone within the year. Tragic? Absolutely! Fair? What is fair? How many people have lost entire families to tragedies? Who am I to think that it's not fair when it happens to me? Fortunately for me, life isn't always fair...if it were, I might not have the wonderful people that I have in it now. I sure didn't earn them. Many hugs to you Colleen! ~Serene

mary333 said...

This is such a good post! I've struggled with the "fairness" of life more times than I can count and have come to the conclusion that it simply doesn't make sense, does it? I guess we can't see the big picture and our perspective is too small to understand why things are the way they are. Plus, our innate sense of justice is very disturbed when we read about people like the ones in your post who commit terrible evils and still seem to be blessed.

I love the quote you began your post with. I tend to ask "why?" most often when something bad happens rather than something good. Your question on our sense of entitlement hit home too :)

I am so glad you are posting again. You have a gift for writing and for getting to the heart of things. Thanks!

Shell said...

I think the biggest problem I have with thinking about how things aren't fair is when it involves my children. I can never see a reason for little kids to have to suffer.

Colleen said...

Thanks Katie, so true and yet so hard to reach that spot!

Brian, I've had a few tantrums myself.:) I hope things are better for you today.

Serene, thank you for your comment! I really think that your experience with your mother is telling, she must have been a wise woman! I also am glad life isn't always fair...I'd be afraid to know what it is I really deserve!! ;) Hugs to you too.

Mary thank you very much for the compliment! That is always nice to hear. I really liked the quote too because it sure hit home, I don't recall ever asking "Why me? It isn't fair!" when I've been blessed with something surprisingly good after all. :)

Shell, I can certainly understand your point. It is harder to see others (especially children) suffer unfairly than it is ourselves I think. Harder to explain, harder to rationalize, harder to accept...thinking of you.

Felisol said...

Dear Colleen,
God is fair, God is love, I think we need to accept that.
I admit, these days I'm struggling hard myself, to witness my wonderful, giving, creative, loving mother deteriorate into almost nothing.
My love for her is higher than ever. I just think it's not fear to her that she should suffer like this.
I struggle, but I cling to GOD IS LOVE.
My only child says so wisely, grandmother is teaching us new things even till the end. Now she's the thankful one, never complaining though it's clear to everybody how much she suffers both physically and mentally. "Don't make me feel small, she once begged".. I was the wrongdoer. Thinking that being clean was more important that being independent.
But I'm learning, slowly, very slowly.

As for you I know I have said before, God need mothers with a heart so big, it will cherish and love children they haven't given birth to. Giving life is more valuable and necessary.
My wonderful sister in law, is also not a biological mother. She has adopted to children, who wouldn't otherwise survived, and she had been a caring foster mother of three. Now she's the grandmother of five and more keeps coming. God needed her, and she took the challenge, now she' hugely rewarded.

You know, being a mother of unwanted children and mistreated children is a lifelong struggle too, and it takes real love gifted mothers to do so.
Oh, Colleen, in this horrible world God so needs you.

Dangerous Linda said...

Interesting post. I'm racking my brain and I'm pretty sure I don't spend much time at all thinking about whether life is fair.

The Spiritual universe is a just place. That means I will receive the perfect experiences which will provide lessons for moving along my path of learning. Learning what? Love.

I see everything else as ego attachment and has nothing to do with fair or unfair.

Ratz said...

Colleen... this is such an emotionally driven post to the right end... i have always struggled with this sense of unfairness... it was draining me out... making me more of a victim... and then, i stopped doing this, making myself feel like... i tried stopping asking God... and letting myself be more aware of the fact that things are already better than what they were some three years before. I have a lot to be thankful... and i am thanking God for that...

Karen Kyle Ericson said...

I've often wondered why me? But then I began to see stepping stones. One job that drove me crazy, led me to another. Until finally I realized I just don't belong in business. It seems like in all my circumstances the steps lead to stronger faith and joy. We've always had our needs met, but it's not easy to wait. This is a great post! Had a computer problem this week, but I'm back now : ) Another stepping stone God placed in my path that's a great one (my new Mac).

God bless!

Grandma K said...

I heard a pastor say that in the beginning God created a perfect world. In the 'end' God will make a perfect world but here, in time as we know it life is hard, hard things happen, life isn't fair. Those thought have helped me deal with some of my frustration and anger.

Colleen, you bring such great topics, you write them so well. Thank you.

Rachna said...

Good post, made me think. I just believe that if I live my life honestly and as a good human being then I have a right to some happiness. I know we can't question anyone if something does not turn out good. But, then what faith will be left in right, just and good, if people who are bad and hurt others thrive and those who are good and nice suffer. It does not fit into my equation of life. I do expect certain fairness :).

Colleen said...

Dear Felisol, your comment about your own mother's suffering really touched my heart. What a wise and beautiful woman. And what a blessing she must be to your family. I am praying for you all as you deal with this sad time. God bless and wishing you peace.

Linda, what an exceptionally interesting way to look at it all. Thanks for sharing your opinion.

Ratz, thanks for sharing that. It sounds like you have made real progress in this area. Live and learn, right? :)

Karen the stepping stones is a great analogy! Each unfairness, disappointment or good things spurs us on toward something else. Maybe we would never really move forward without them. Thanks for that!

Grandma K, beautiful photo first of all.:) And second, yes, the feeling of unfairness can lead to a lot of frustration and good to have a way of dealing with it, making it more bearable.

Rachna, I know what you mean for sure! It is hard to watch good souls go through terrible things and vice versa. I think it is far different to think something is unfair on someone elses account. And for the record, I also think you deserve happiness.:) I hope you always find it in your life. :)

SassyModernMom said...

I think part of our problem as a generation is that we were taught to play fair, be fair, be nice. So we expect life to be that way! It just isn't. Powerful post my friend.

Rachna said...

Thank you Colleen. I actually believe in finding happiness within first and then it automatically translates to happiness in all else :).

Corinne Rodrigues said...

I think we let go of our sense of 'fairness' when we learn to ask 'Why not me?'...that's what happened to me...

Peggy said...

Life is not fair. But God is in control. When I get to heaven I'll have a lot of "why" questions to ask Him. In the meantime, I'll try to trust in His sovereignty. It's not always easy.

Adrienne said...

This is a thought provoking post. We have to step outside of ourselves. It's hard, but so true.

Crown of Beauty said...

Keep on blogging in 2012! Let's keep blogland afloat... and glowing for the name of Jesus.

I noticed that many of my blogfriends are no longer blogging but are very active on another social network (I better not mention it here...)


I couldn't let this year end without my dropping by here to let you know I am thankful to God for the gift of your friendship. I have no doubt that the New Year will usher in blessings of peace, joy, hope and provision for you and for me!