It’s time to change our views that life is unfair

Life is unfair. And it’s not fair that life is unfair (Edward Abbey, 1927 ~ 1989)

Yes, there are injustices. Guiltless people are sent to prison. Terrorists make plans to strike at innocent citizens. Facts regarding the poisons in our food are hidden from us. Olympic medals and Academy Awards are presented for political reasons instead of merit. To rise up and fight against these and other forms of inequity is not only proper, but ennobling. We should welcome the chance to make the world a better place for our compatriots and for those who follow us.

In the examples given above UNFAIRNESS is synonymous with INJUSTICE. In the case of injustice, there is always evidence supporting the claim of wrongdoing. However, very often those who complain that the world is unfair are really speaking about personal feelings, not about injustice. That’s because three-quarters of what we see is behind our eyes. That is, it is in our mind. Instead of experiencing the world, we experience what we IMAGINE the world to be. For example, Tom’s boss promotes another person in his department. Why didn’t the boss promote Tom instead of the other person? “It’s so unfair!” complains Tom.

His complaint makes it sound like he’s interested in justice, doesn’t it? But how can someone who seeks undeserved benefits, rewards, or recognition be interested in justice? Samuel Butler (1835-1902) described how Tom, and others like him, interprets fairness, “Justice is my being allowed to do whatever I like. Injustice is whatever prevents my doing so.” All too often those bemoaning the unfairness of the world are just whining that they’re not getting their way. They haven’t grown up yet. Their sense of unfairness is irrational because it is based on childish demands and unrealistic expectations. They want to return to the time that they were infants. For then all they had to do was cry (complain) and someone would come and attend to their needs.

If we catch ourselves harboring unjustified thoughts that the world is unfair, it’s time to change our views. Why? Because such views are unproductive. They are self-defeating. Complaining about not having what I want prevents me from getting what I want. Second, such a dark view of life is unharmonious and disrupts relationships. After all, if I resent and envy the success of others, I will be unable to maintain a warm relationship with them, separating myself even further from success.

So, how do I avoid being sucked into a downward spiral of frustration, envy, and grief? How do I escape the dead-end street of childish demands? Some suggestions follow.

1. Wake up.
Whack yourself on the side of your head. Tell yourself, “Hello! The world doesn’t owe me a living. If I am unhappy with my present situation, I have to accept responsibility and start creating the life I wish to live.” Instead of looking for someone to blame for your unhappiness, look for solutions. Ask yourself, “What am I doing wrong? What are my options? How can I make myself worthy of what I seek?” Complaining is a dead-end street. Make a U-turn and find your way out by looking for solutions, making a plan, and taking action.

2. Work with not against others. If you have goals and wishes in the workplace, communicate, negotiate, and ask what is necessary to get what you want. Talk about what you want, not about what is ‘fair.’ Don’t forget that ‘fairness’ is subjective, so try to see the other person’s viewpoint. Remember, too, that those you work with also have goals, wishes, and rights. So, be willing to cooperate and compromise. Don’t demand what you want, earn it. Instead of win-lose situations, always look for win-win opportunities. Help others get what they want. That’s accepting responsibility for being a team member. When you help others to succeed, they will do likewise for you.

3. Think with your head not your feelings.
Those who succeed, think things through. We make plans and formulate strategies with our brain, not our feelings. If any negative feelings arise, challenge them. Just because the boss scowled at me, I don’t have to jump to the conclusion that he is angry with me. Any number of things can cause him to frown. Negative feelings and the thoughts associated with them can cause me to arrive at false conclusions and experience unnecessary apprehension. While negative emotions such as fear and anger will halt our progress, positive emotions, such as compassion, will pave the way toward success. For example, if a compassionate person sees his boss scowl, without thinking, he will immediately say, “What’s wrong, boss? Is there something I can do to help?” Won’t his compassion transform a negative situation into a positive experience?

4. Count your blessings, not your grievances.
How can I take advantage of the opportunities that surround me if I am unaware of them or blind to their presence? Moaners and complainers see nothing but lack. Lack of opportunities, lack of ‘fairness,’ and lack of cooperation. They have never outgrown their childhood concept of ‘fairness.’ They still remember when mommy divided the cookies evenly among the children. Everyone got the same amount. Now that’s fair! Like children, they expect their boss to distribute the payroll evenly, without regard to merit. Once they start counting their blessings instead of their complaints, they’ll begin to make progress.

5. Choose preferences, not demands.
Those who remain immature and go through life demanding that the world cater to their every wish, set themselves up for disappointment, frustration, and resentment. Only those who are balanced and realize that things will not always go as they would like can experience peace and happiness. They realize that storms will break, fires will rage, and tragedies will descend. They prefer to avoid disaster if possible. However, if it’s unavoidable they will accept it and, like countless others before them, overcome it and grow stronger because of it.

Finally, here’s some additional worthwhile advice taken from the 2001 Message of the Dalai Lama (Tenzin Gyatso).

When you lose, don’t lose the lesson.
Don’t let a little dispute injure a great friendship.
Judge your success by what you had to give up in order to get it.
When you realize you’ve made a mistake, take immediate steps to correct it.
Take into account that great love and great achievements involve great risk.
Remember that not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck.
Follow the three R’s: Respect for self, Respect for others, Responsibility for all your actions.
Live a good, honorable life. Then when you get older and think back, you’ll be able to enjoy it a second time.

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