Kids are always whining about how unfair life is. When I was growing up, I was told that “fair is a place where men go to throw cow pats to win prizes”. I’ve also heard “fare is what people pay to ride the bus”. Either way, the point is that life just isn’t fair; at least not in the way we’d like it to be.
We obviously gauge what we consider fair by how things affect us personally. It’s normal to feel that you’ve been dealt a raw hand when you don’t get the raise or promotion you’ve worked so hard for. It’s understandable for anyone who has suffered a debilitating life event to feel as if someone or something is out to get him. And we know such happenings as Hurricane Katrina, the 2004 Thailand tsunami, and the massive earthquake the Earth released on China earlier this year are definitely not “fair”.
Yet, there’s a difference between how children and adults define fairness. If a kid doesn’t get what he wants, no matter what that thing is, the situation is declared unfair. Little Billy didn’t get that third ice cream cone – ding, ding, ding, unfair! Polly doesn’t get to play with her friend Betty’s new doll – come on people! Unfair! Cindy didn’t get a new car for her sweet sixteen – alert the authorities! Unlike children however, most adults realize that fairness requires more than our mere existence and desire to stack the deck in our favor.
In his book, Nine things you simply must do to succeed in love and life: A psychologist probes the mystery of why some lives really work and others don’t, Dr. Henry Cloud indicates that people shouldn’t “play fair”. Now, before we all go off and rail about how unfair it is to others not to be fair, or, even worse, take the suggestion at face value and just start taking everything we want regardless of how doing so would affect other people, let’s look at what Cloud means by “playing fair”.
Cloud actually believes that we should be more than fair. Kind of like, if we make sure that we do unto others better than we want others to do unto us, we’ll trigger some sort of Karmic reaction that will lead to a better life for us. Ok, I’m exaggerating a bit, but you get my meaning.
Now, I have an incredibly rigid sense of fairness. I’ve always tried to make sure that the people around me get more than they are required to give in friendships, business transactions, etc. But, all that my rigid sense of fairness has earned me is a head full of grey hairs, most of which I swear are caused by people who frustrate the bejesus out of me with their ability to take advantage of other people. And it’s that darn fairness rigidity that leaves me open-mouthed most of the time, thinking “what the devil did I do to deserve this/that?”
Something else I was always told when I was growing up? “You will receive your reward in heaven.” In other words, don’t expect it here.
But I don’t have all the answers either.
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