How many times has this desperate phrase escaped your lips? For most of us adults, we remember being a kid, whining to our parents about the unfairness we would experience.
“It’s not fair! Why does Suzy get that toy and not me?”
But now that we’re all grown up (well…. almost), we very rarely verbalize our self-centered feelings of inequality even though our inner child still screams it loudly and obnoxiously clear more often than we would like to admit.
As embarrassed, as I am to say this, I actually said this phrase out loud a few weeks ago after I had learned that a life long friend had purchased Disneyland annual passes for her family. And these weren’t the bare-bone passes. Oh no. We’re talking the ultimate, premium, no blackout dates, and top of the line annual passes. My family on the other hand is in no way financially capable of purchasing even a single day, single park pass let alone annual passes. So who was the safest person I could unload my inner whining child on? My mom of course!
Hoping to get some sympathy, I released my inner child on her one afternoon.
“Mom, it’s not fair! I have been dying to take Eli to Disneyland and can’t afford it. And then (insert friends name here) gets passes! It’s not fair!”
Without a blink she replied with the standard and predictable answer.
“Life’s not fair, Robyn.”
I should have known this would be her response.
As a kid, I accepted this as a valid reason and it always made me stop and think about those that were less fortunate than myself. I would agree with my parents that yes, life is not fair because I know there are kids worse off than me. I was very lucky. But as grateful as I was, this simplistic response never really made me feel any better. And this time was no different. Duh, mom! I know life’s not fair. But this canned response to my immature complaint just doesn’t cut it anymore. It doesn’t help me move forward. If anything it makes me fall into a self- pitying mode, which is really not all that attractive. So I decided to challenge this “life is not fair” statement.
What if my parents had it wrong all these years? What if life really is fair?
If life is fair then what does it mean when we suffer setbacks, heartaches, jealously or any of those other horribly negative and disheartening experiences?
What if instead of asking, “why is this happening TO me?” We reword it to “why is this happening FOR me?”
This one little word changes everything.
It places the power back in our hands. It gives us the opportunity to look for the gift each situation brings into our life be it good or bad. This thing has happened for me so that I can learn something and hopefully grow from it.
A few days after unloading to my mother about not being able to go to Disneyland, I shared my frustration with a friend. She wisely told me that if we could afford passes and went all the time to Disneyland, it would make the experience of going to Disneyland not special and take away it’s significance. I would have never thought about it in that way. This was the gift I was given.
Life is fair.
Choosing to see setbacks as opportunities is not easy and I’m still learning how to master this skill. It takes time and practice.
I’m so grateful to have made this thought shift prior to Eli learning about the word “fair”. Because inevitably when he comes to me with the complaint that every child at one time or another has, I can give him the power to make a choice rather than pity himself.
As Thanksgiving approaches, I think it is a great time to start practicing this change of mind. If life were fair what would change in your life? Start seeing setbacks as a gift. What opportunities are you overlooking?
As for Disneyland, I have decided that I can use it as leverage in the future. A parent always has to have a good bribe at hand.