The Fairness of Being Unfair


Life is unfair. You know it. I know it. Anybody who’s able to understand consequences knows it. Yet there’s a certain attribute in each one of us that dictates that life should be fair.

So sad, too bad. That’s not the way life is.

As a parent, I’m constantly hearing about issues of fairness between my children:

“Why do I need to put away the dishes away and she doesn’t?”

“Why do I have to take out the trash and she doesn’t?”

“Why do I have to pick up the living room and she doesn’t?”

They aren’t saying it directly, but the underlying question my kids are asking is:

“Why am I not being treated fairly?” Especially in comparison to their sibling.

Let’s be honest, if you’re a parent, you won’t be fair at times even though you try.

Each child has their own specific needs and character attributes that dictate that unfairness is going to be inherited.

For example, one child is always cleaning up after themselves and doing their chores, while the other sits like a bump on a log watching cartoons. Is it unfair to give the first child more chores or have the other take care of items that need to be addressed?

Just think back to any unfair incidents you’ve experienced.

You didn’t get a promotion that you were aptly qualified for, but instead, it went to someone who was more liked. Your deadbeat sibling gets financial help from your parents even though you work and are a responsible contributor to the family.

Additionally, you witness unfairness in the news every day.

For example, a hurricane hits a community. The aftermath shows that one house stands alone, unscathed, while the neighborhood around it lies in ruins.

How fair is that?

There are several other examples I can cite, but whatever it is, you and others have been treated unfairly.

It’s important that kids learn that the only fair thing in life is that everyone gets to be treated unfairly from time to time.

What would happen if we lived in a world where everyone was treated “fairly”?

For example, what would happen if you got into a car accident because you weren’t paying attention to the stop sign and you hit and killed a child walking in the crosswalk?

Should you be treated the same as someone who was drunk driving and whose actions caused the same result?

We as a society want equality and parity, but the truth is, we will never receive it. There will always be a disparity between people because circumstances are different for each individual.
I’m not against trying to create an equal playing field for all the players, but even in sports, there are some players that are more talented, in better shape and are more versed in the rules of the game than their teammates. In those cases, these individuals will be respected more, be able to play the game better, and receive more adulation from the fans in comparison to their teammates.

That’s unfair, but we accept and understand when it comes to sports.

However, that’s across the board for everything in life.

Conversely, sometimes we don’t get what our actions dictate. We are treated with unfairness in the sense that we don’t get what we deserve.

A police officer pulls you over for going 25 mph over the speed limit. For some reason, she’s having a good day and lets you off with just a warning. Good thing she’s treating you unfairly, isn’t it?

The bottom line is that unfairness goes both ways.

The only things that are fair in this lifetime is our choice of attitude when facing life’s unbalanced circumstances and our impending death (sorry for being morose).

Other than that, we should expect and so should our kids, to face circumstances when unfairness rears its ugly head.

How then do we teach our selves and our children to handle life’s unbalanced circumstances?

First, expect unfairness. Yes, that’s not “PC” to say, but that’s the truth. Unfairness is going to happen in a variety of circumstances. Learn to accept and deal with it.

Second, when experiencing unfair circumstances, look at it as an opportunity to learn and grow from. Not all unfair circumstances are meant to harm us. Depending on the situation, there are lessons to be learned and character building that can be developed.

Third, if possible, try to create a fair and equitable playing field for all those involved in the unfair circumstances.

From a personal standpoint, my family and I have dealt with unfair circumstances in the form of our daughter’s physical health.

She gets to live life with a genetic disorder that causes her to be hard of hearing, on the verge of deafness. Her vision is myopic, with the possibility of blindness. And has severe pain in her joints so she uses a wheelchair.

Then I have friends and family members whose kids are perfectly healthy and have no medical issues whatsoever. How fair is that?

The question my daughter asks time and time again is: “Why was I born this way?”

What she’s really asking is, “Where’s the fairness of being born with these physical limitations?”

Sometimes, as a parent, you just don’t have an answer as to why life is unfair. We’re all dealt with a certain set of circumstances that can either make us or break us.

In the end, it’s our attitude and belief system that helps us face life’s unbalanced circumstances with grace and an understanding that at least we all get a turn on life’s unfairness wheel.

That doesn’t make unfairness better, it just makes it easier to accept.

What’s Next? Talk with others. Take action.

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