Life’s Not Fair

Life's Not Fair. Psychology Fanatic article header image

The world does not graciously bow to our expectations. Sometimes we are unfairly treated, good actions go unnoticed, or bad behavior rewarded. While life’s not fair. We must continue forward

Sometimes we seemingly do all the right things but lose anyway. We cautiously enter a new relationship but get still hurt. Our choices must intermingle with the choices of millions of others—also exercising their freedom. In the complex game of life, many of the rewards we believe we deserve will not materialize. In disappointment, we receive the unfairness with bitterness. But interferences and stumblings are part of life. We can move forward with hope and faith; the game is not over.

What is Fairness?

Often, tainted views of fairness often taints our perception of unfairness. If we believe fairness is exact equality, then certainly the world will appear unfair. There will never be complete equality. We live in an unpredictable world of complex causes, to eliminate all variance would require destroying individual freedoms; but even then, mother nature in her unpredictable rage would still intervene and impact the lives of some and not others.

Life is inherently unfair; but some aspects of experience life equally distributes. We all live and we all will die. We all have some measure of choice. And we all can discover joys and sorrows in the moment.

Oliver Emberton wrote in his blog about fairness, “the truth is, life is just playing by different rules. The real rules are there. They actually make sense. But they’re a bit more complicated, and a lot less comfortable, which is why most people never manage to learn them” (2014).

“If we believe fairness is exact equality, then certainly the world will appear unfair. There will never be complete equality.”

~T. Franklin Murphy

Some of the rules of life our universal. Natural laws of consequences. These our structurally fair. Other aspects of life are not fair. Genetics, illness, society, and childhood environments. Many of these happenstances of life may follow natural laws but laws far beyond our control. In these cases unfairness exists for individuals and groups of individuals.

Responsibility to Balance Unfairness

While life is unfair, and never can be made completely even, we can work towards balancing some of the more salient causes of unfairness. We can work with governments to intervene where necessary to restore opportunity where society has taken away opportunity.

​We don’t choose the country, neighborhood or parents where we will begin life. We suffer or are graced with a healthy or crumbling foundation from the beginning. To condemn large segments of society, citing personal choice as the only cause is ignorant, a hideous lie that protects some while discounting the needs of others.

Societies Contributing to Imbalances

​A society that creates an invisible barrier to prevent the peasants from moving into nobility is wrong, whether it is the sixteenth century or the twenty-first century. As a nation, we must work towards fairness. As individuals, we must work towards personal responsibility. Yes, life’s not fair; but we can work to level the unfairness in some small degree.

When things don’t go our way by darkening our view, we magnify the problem. By concentrating on the unfairness, we lose strength, diving into helpless sorrows that narrow creative thought, and prevent novel and exalting responses. We can wallow in discouragement, slipping into depression; we may fight with destructive revenge; or to flourish, we can choose to constructively respond to the unfairness. We express freedom through responses. By accepting what happened, evaluating possible action, and then making a choice. With cautious action, we regain power to direct our lives and move to a more balanced position where we can effect change on a much larger scale.

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Emberton, Oliver (2014). The problem isn’t that life is unfair – it’s your broken idea of fairness. Published 2014; accessed 4-4-2023.

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