Life’s not fair. Let’s face it.
We’ve all heard this idiom at one point or another in our lives. Whether it was our parents generalizing the root of a deeper issue, or through the consoling words of a friend during tough times, this blanket phrase has been sloughing off what seems unexplainable in our lives for ages.
So, is life fair or not?
My six-year-old son posed this question at school, sparking a firestorm of debate among teachers and staff. Like good humans they didn’t want to crush his young spirit with a flat out “no” so they discussed with him scenarios that play into concept of fairness, such as sharing, and handed the reigns on addressing the topic at hand back to me.
The cynic in me fuelled my immediate reaction to my son’s philosophical question. I wanted to tell him, no; life is not fair. Perhaps this rash response was aimed to selfishly skew his perception of the world and harden his innocence before life begins to weigh on him.
I took a moment to think about the question. What would be the implications to my answer? Deep into his formative years, what I was about to say had the potential to resonate with him for a lifetime.
I would wager that if you ask most people, they would tell you that life isn’t fair. There is an underlying notion in modern society that outcomes in this world are related to what we deserve and what we don’t. We become jaded with every curve ball that life hits us with and adopt a what’s-going-to-happen-to-me-next-? attitude. However, the idea that the universe is always connected to us is a self-imposed construct used to make us feel better about what we can’t comprehend, or when things just aren’t going our way.
Is this outlook healthy and something we should pass onto our kids?
I SAY NO.
If we pass on the concept of fairness to our children as a means to justify what’s beyond their control we will perpetuate a sense of entitlement. The notion that life’s not fair breeds the idea that things should go their way in all facets of life and if they don’t, they’ve been dealt a losing hand.
Fairness can only be determined if someone is an active participant.
There is a difference between how we use the term “fair” and how we can teach our kids about fairness. As a father, I will instill the lesson that my son can only control what he does; he does not hold power over the actions or reactions of others. Fairness is not a borderless concept and what is beyond his control has nothing to do what’s fair.
It’s simply life, as cold as that may sound.
There will be circumstances and outcomes in my son’s life that he will not be able to control. Some will be favourable, and against my hopes and wishes, some will not be. What’s important will be his reaction to what’s hurled his way. It’s only then the discussion of fairness can begin.
This is an essential lesson that I will continue to work on with him.
Back to the question, “is life fair?”
In my view, there is no answer. Life doesn’t make choices with me or anyone else in mind. So in fairness to my son, I will eliminate this phrase from our lives and focus on teaching him the qualities he can use to promote fairness in his.