Her beloved brother passed away and shortly afterward, she lost her infant son to whooping cough. She and her husband then fostered three children with the intention of adopting them, but the adoption fell through and they never saw their kids again.
Understandably, she was devastated.
How could life be so unfair?
When she asked her husband this question, he said it was unfair… for a white, middle class Christian woman living in America. It may sound harsh, but his words shed some perspective on the situation.
One billion people on this planet live in extreme poverty. These people are dealing with problems like violence, war, human trafficking, starving to death, and not having access to clean drinking water.
Some of them may have seen or experienced numerous unspeakable tragedies that most of us can’t even imagine.
In contrast to that, those of us who live in middle class American suburbs are some of the most privileged people in the entire world.
In our culture, we’re obsessed with keeping up with the Joneses and it’s easy to feel envious of others…without remembering how blessed we truly are.
“FAIR” ISN’T USEFUL
For some reason, we’ve collectively bought into this narrative that life “should” be fair. But it isn’t and it never will be – as long as we are on this Earth.
Don’t get me wrong – if you see injustice somewhere, fight it. Speak out about racism, sexism, or other examples of inequality. We can work to make those things better.
But there are other things we have no control over.
If someone you love passes away suddenly or you receive a serious diagnosis, thinking about how “unfair” it is will not benefit anyone. It only makes you feel self-pity or anger.
Life is often unfair. Awful things happen to good people, and wonderful things sometimes happen to bad people.
I don’t know why. That’s a question only God can answer.
We can’t control the “unfair” things that happen in our lives, but we can control how we react to them.
VICTIM MENTALITY ISN’T USEFUL EITHER
When we get stuck in the victim mentality, we feel awful. Playing the victim makes us feel powerless and hopeless. If we can change the way we perceive the situation, this is empowering and can motivate positive change.
For example, let’s say I’ve been diagnosed with a medical condition that requires me to stick to a strict diet.
I can complain about how unfair it is that everyone else can eat whatever they want, or I can choose to see the situation in a more positive light. Perhaps I can view it as an opportunity to prioritize my health and shed a few pounds.
Remember that our circumstances do not cause our feelings. Our thoughts create our feelings and we can choose to think whatever we want.
THE 50/50 CONTRAST
Most of us seem to have this idea that life should be happy most of the time.
Why do we think that?
I don’t know where that idea comes from, but Brooke Castillo offers a more useful perspective. What if we thought of life as 50/50? 50% good, 50% bad.
What if we stopped expecting that it would be 90/10 or 80/20?
The truth is, life is going to suck half of the time. Bad things happen. People get sick. Loved ones die. We all experience pain.
That’s okay. Pain is part of life.
WE’RE IN THIS TOGETHER
Everyone on this Earth experiences pain at some point in their lives. No one is exempt from pain, no matter how much money they have or how happy they seem.
This quote has always stuck with me: “If we threw all of our problems in a pile and we saw everyone else’s, we’d take ours back.” – Regina Brett
We don’t always know what other people are experiencing. Some problems may be obvious, like a cancer diagnosis or the death of a loved one.
Other problems are invisible. We often don’t know who’s struggling with mental illness, addiction, or an eating disorder. We don’t know that someone may still be recovering from abuse or trauma.
No matter how “together” someone seems, we only see the image they choose to project to the world.
Everyone has challenges in life.
PAIN VS. SUFFERING
To be clear – I’m not saying that anyone should feel happy about a cancer diagnosis or the death of a loved one. It’s okay to feel sad, disappointed, angry, and whatever other emotions you experience.
You can allow these emotions and process through them.
Just remember that there is a difference between pain and suffering. Pain is the heartbreak and grief you feel when someone you love dies. This is a normal part of the human experience.
Suffering is the added unnecessary pain that you feel by thinking thoughts like:
- This isn’t fair.
- This shouldn’t be happening.
- This isn’t the way it was supposed to be.
- This isn’t what I signed up for.
I’m not saying that it isn’t hard. Of course it is.
But thinking about how unfair it is will only make you miserable.
What if you tried thinking thoughts like these instead?
- This is hard but I can do hard things because I’m not doing this alone. God is always here. He is my strength when I feel weak.
- I’m thankful for the years I had with my loved one. I am so blessed to have had this person in my life.
- Grief is a normal part of life. I can experience grief and pain, and I will be stronger on the other side of this.
- There are no guarantees in life. Every single day we’re given is a gift from God… a gift that many people were not lucky enough to receive.
- Everyone has battles to fight in this life. No one gets out alive.
When life feels unfair, remember this…
Life isn’t fair.
It’s not supposed to be fair.
And that’s okay.
“I’ll praise you in this storm,
And I will lift my hands.
For you are who you are,
No matter where I am.
And every tear I’ve cried,
You hold in your hand.
You never left my side.
And though my heart is torn,
I will praise you in this storm.”
-Casting Crowns, “Praise You in This Storm”
OTHER STUFF YOU MIGHT LIKE:
What to do When Something Sucks
20 Inspiring Quotes About Embracing Uncertainty
4 Things You Need to Stop Trying to Control (if You Want to Be Happy)
The Key to Overcoming Anxiety
10 Bad Habits You Need to Stop if You Want to be Happy