#29 How to Be Happy When Life Isn’t Fair

You can still be happy when life isn’t fair. Happy people know this. They don’t always like the fact that life isn’t fair, but they understand and accept it. Happy people uphold their values, practice forgiveness, and rely on their faith to overcome unfairness. However, people who can’t handle the reality that life isn’t fair are dissatisfied and malcontent. They are unhappy. This post explains how you can still be happy when life isn’t fair.

Correcting Unfairness Doesn’t Create Happiness

Unhappy people reject the fact that life isn’t fair and have difficulty tolerating the discomfort that comes with unfairness. Instead of accepting this reality, they brood over past and current hurt, pain, and suffering. Therefore, they continually seek justice to correct inequity rather than seek wisdom to prevail over it.

In their pursuit of rightness, unhappy people, whether individuals or groups, manipulate or abandon the core values (God’s laws). Moreover, they blame and punish others and use their own beliefs to determine reparations. They want the impossible – to conquer unfairness. This ideal puts them in a superior position, which itself is unfair! Maybe these people think conquering the impossible will make them happy. Whatever their reasons, their attempts to make life fair creates more unfairness because of the choices they make in those attempts.

The desire to correct inequity is not new. To have this desire, people had to recognize the existence of injustice. This recognition came when people realized they had a choice. And, the first people to realize this were Eve and Adam.

Freedom of Choice

God is love. He is not a dictator. He created us to have free will so we can choose to love and obey Him, not be slaves to Him. In that obedience and love, we live fuller and happier lives. And that is God’s desire for us. But, for us to utilize free will, we must have something to obey. Therefore, we must have rules. Then, we can choose to follow or not follow them.

Rules Give Us Choices

For fairness to exist, we must have rules, and we must obey them. Genesis shows this through the story of Adam and Eve. God gave Adam and Eve everything to make their lives happy. They were free of inequity. There was nothing to make them feel fear, anger, shame, or guilt. They were free to walk anywhere in the garden and eat as much as they pleased.

Adam and Eve seemed to have the kind of choices we typically have on vacation – where, when, and what to eat. But, like any good parent, God had house rules. One basic instruction was, “Do Not Touch the tree of knowledge of good and evil.” It would have been an easy rule to obey if God had tucked the tree in the corner of the garden. But, He placed it smack in the middle. So no matter what direction Adam and Eve went, they passed the tree. God’s rule gave Adam and Eve the choice to obey God.

Intrusive Thoughts Cause Bad Choices

Adam and Eve could choose what God desired or what they desired. Eventually, their desires won out. Eve yielded to the serpent, an intruder that intensified temptation and planted doubt in her mind. The attraction was a better-tasting, better-looking fruit that would improve their existence. And, it was doubtful that God would have them die after all the work he went through to create them. These intrusive thoughts justified their disobedience.

Adam and Eve challenged God by putting their desires and interests ahead of His. Is there any competition more unfair than that between parent and child?

Many times people, especially children, think unfairness is punishment. It occurs as a result of someone’s will. Therefore, unfairness, itself is not a punishment.

Negative Emotions Make Us Recognize Unfairness

After Adam and Eve ate the fruit, they felt ashamed and afraid – two emotions that allow us to recognize the existence of unfairness. When God called them out, Adam blamed Eve, and Eve blamed the serpent. This sequence of events shows us that inequity started with Satan (temptation and doubt) and persisted by a lack of obedience to God. In other words, unfairness occurs due to irreverence and bad choices.

Forgiveness Nullifies Injustice

Happy people revere God’s word and rely on it to help them overcome the challenges of temptation and doubt. They adhere to God’s rules through conscious thought, awareness, and faith to maintain their obedience and fairness. If they falter, they know repentance yields God’s mercy, which reconciles them and sets them free. Therefore, they know that forgiveness does not correct unfairness but nullifies it.

To forgive is not as easy for us as it is for God. Our negative bias (our natural inclination for survival) makes it difficult to let go of bad things that happened. Therefore, to forgive, we must be closer to God. We must get out of our natural state and into a spiritual level by being consciously aware of human frailties.

Yesterday’s Choice May Be Today’s Injustice

Reality is everyone makes mistakes and bad choices. No one can alter this truth. Accepting it sets you up to know unfairness happens for reasons that extend beyond the information you have. For example, an ancestor’s lack of obedience and bad choices done years ago might be a reason for a family’s dysfunction today.

While the actual cause for inequity might not be known, remembering that human beings are not perfect and offering forgiveness allows you to manage your current situation without seeking justice or demanding compensation. It sets you free and prevents you from making more bad choices that would cause additional unfairness to others, including your descendants.

Jesus’s Greatest Lesson

Forgiveness and tolerance of people’s fallibility require obedience to Jesus’s teaching. Two of his most excellent teachings are Love God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself. When you practice these two commandments, you focus less on the unfairness of life and more on how to love others.

Choose to Believe the Best

Happy people understand love and know it involves choice. 1 Corinthians 13 gives a thorough definition of love, and part of the description tells us that love believes the best. Since our negative bias pulls us in the opposite direction, we must choose what we want to think. For example, say I invite my friend for lunch, and she doesn’t show up. If I go with my nature, I’ll think of all kinds of negative reasons she didn’t meet me. Maybe she’s mad at me, she got into an accident, or she didn’t remember. None of these makes me feel good, and I won’t feel good about my friend either. That’s not fair to her or me. Therefore, if I choose to believe the best and think she must have a good reason not to come to lunch, I remind myself that she is a worthy person and I feel good. No matter her explanation, I’ve loved both myself and her. I’ve been obedient and fair.

It isn’t always easy to love someone, especially if the person or persons have treated you unfairly. Therefore, the choice to love and believe the best requires obedience through discipline or self-control. As long as you can think, you can exercise discipline. But again, it’s your choice.

Faith and Unfairness

People who think life should be fair may acknowledge God, but they are more obedient to themselves and their beliefs of what is right than to God and His righteousness. Therefore, they put their faith in information rather than God. They “follow the science” instead of following Jesus and question God instead of questioning science.

Science is the systematic study of structure and behavior through observation and experiment. To use this approach for assessing and overcoming unfairness means quantifying the inequities in life.

Retribution or Reconciliation

People who follow this train of thought would assert there should be quantifiable compensation for those who’ve experienced unfairness. You can only do this if you can put a particular value amount on someone or something. We see this in civil justice to settle problems caused by unfair practices. This kind of settlement is retribution, not reconciliation.

Unhappy people who meditate on past human errors seek this kind of compensation for historical injustices. Sometimes adult children carry grudges against their parents. It can also happen in certain groups. In truth, how can you measure the right amount of compensation for something that happened years before and under different conditions? How satisfied would you be if you received payment for an injustice that occurred seventy years ago by someone you don’t even know?

Compensation for a historical injustice is difficult to settle. This kind of debt is challenging since the debtor is unknown or no longer here. Therefore, someone who currently exists must pay. That would be like you paying for a car your great uncle purchased one hundred years ago. How fair is that?

Extinguishing Unfairness Means Denying Truth and Reality

People who believe there should be no unfairness try to extinguish it. They do this by omitting historical information for education, tearing down historical statues and portraits, and changing schools’ names. Deleting or rewriting history does not erase it, nor does it eliminate unfairness. If you burned all the pictures of your grandmother because she left your cousin a larger inheritance than you, that doesn’t erase her existence. After all, if she didn’t exist, neither would you. This type of thinking denies the truth and reality, which isn’t fair.

People who continue to feel bad because of things that happened to them when they were younger try to prevent injustices for their children. I hear this a lot when clients tell me they learned what not to do from their parents. Other examples where adults try to ensure fairness for children include:

  • Lowering test scores for school admissions.
  • Eliminating team tryouts.
  • Giving everyone on the team a trophy.

These efforts to correct unfairness deny children truth and reality and set them up for future disappointment. When people try to spare children the frustration of inequity, they prevent children from being strong and courageous in overcoming adversity. They don’t allow children to be encouraged to be the best they can be. It’s unfair.

Negative Bias Perpetuates Negative View

People who get stuck about life being unfair view life from their negative bias. Therefore, they focus on what they don’t have compared to what others do have. People who accept life isn’t fair look in both directions. They can see how much better things might be, but they also realize how much worse things could be for them. These people maintain an accurate and fair perspective of reality that allows them to be more grateful for what they have. Their gratitude reminds them of all the good they have that enables them to give to others.

Accepting Life Isn’t Fair Makes You More Generous

People who accept that life is unfair are more generous. They don’t give out of guilt or fear but out of compassion and love. Generous people plan what they give. They support, encourage, uphold, and uplift others because they want to build up, not compensate or punish.

Unhappy people spend too much time in their nature, which makes them more competitive than generous. Dominance and greed overtake humility and generosity, so they determine who should have what. They base their determinations on their thoughts and feelings. So, they may see someone who is momentarily vulnerable as a chronic victim (poor soul) and incapable of taking care of his/her problems. Thus, they must rescue these poor unfortunate souls. Rescuers determine what victims need. Therefore, they don’t honor vulnerable people. How fair is that?

Unfair Doesn’t Mean Unable

Happy people know that unfair doesn’t mean unable. Moreover, they are forward thinkers, so they look towards the future with hope and optimism. They don’t see unfairness as the extinction of equality but as existential diversity that allows them to strive for self-improvement and encourage others to do the same.

Unhappy people view unfairness as a malformation of existence, a grave injustice for those who are or have been on the underside of prosperity. Deuteronomy tells us there will always be poor people, whether they are deficient in material goods, money, health, or spirit. We are to honor them through generous support, encouragement, and love. Retaliating to correct the unfairness doesn’t promote better conditions. It takes you away from those in need and leaves them feeling abandoned.

If Life Were Fair We Wouldn’t Fair Well

If life were fair, everyone would have the same skills, talents, intellect, illnesses, amount of money, and good looks. There would be no competition and no specialties – nothing to compete for and nothing to make you unique. If life were fair and we all had the same, people would become complacent and live their lives following the orders of those who dictate equality.

Life isn’t fair – thank goodness! Because of that, we can have healthy competition, serve others, experience mercy and grace, be grateful, commit to our values, be obedient, and have an intimate relationship with God. It allows us to love more.

You can be happy when life isn’t fair!

How to be happy when life isnt’ fair.