It's Just Not Fair! Insisting On Fairness & Justice Is A Recipe For Conflict, Misery & Suffering

Yes, God is fair. I'm actually glad I got leprosy.
If I hadn't, I wouldn't have come to know God.
—Rabiap Boonma

Reflect upon a telling story about fairness:

Exactly Equal
[or Two Russian Bears Consult A Fox]
—Author Unknown

Two Russian bears in the woods came across a wheel of cheese. Breaking it in half, each wanted the bigger half. They went to a fox to help arbitrate who would get the bigger half. The fox studied the situation carefully and pronounced that it would only be fair if the halves were the very same size. The bears agreed to the fox's thought. So the fox took a bite out of the bigger half to make them equal. Yet in doing this, now the other half was bigger. So the fox took a bite out of the other half to make them the same size. It went back and forth like this for a long time until the two pieces of cheese were absolutely identical. The two pieces of cheese were now exactly equal, but they were now only one-tenth the size of the original halves. The fox gave the two identical pieces of cheese to the Russian bears. The bears were very happy, ate the cheese, and went on their way.

Moral: Look what happens when you hand your life over to the fictive ego. You have your ego's version of your life instead of your life, which is not very satisfying, except for the ego which does not even exist. Do we need to follow it like a puppy dog?


Our ego mind is happy to arbitrate all disputes between other ego minds. The fox appropriates and commandeers the majority of property in the dispute, such that the fox alone appears to win while all others lose. Was fairness or justice served? Did fairness or justice even show up, not as a bone of contention, but as a process and an outcome? Of course not! Was the dispute really about the wheel of cheese at all? Or was it about our mind's attachment to fairness and justice at all costs? Would it be about projecting our fear that another will be unfair and wanting to prevent the other party from taking advantage of us? How many families operate by aiming to be exactly fair? Did yours?

We've all heard the child's wail, "It's just not fair!!" Look in the dictionary and find the word "fair" used as a moral standard means good, just, honest, impartial, unprejudiced and according to the rules. Comedian Richard Pryor in the early 1970's told a joke that hit very close to home in relating how people of color interact with police and the criminal justice system: "You're looking for justice, that's just what you'll find-just us!" It appears he was pointing to race relations in America that were anything but fair. As the opening quote points out, God is "fair" in any situation once we truly understand, even if most of us simply do not see the bigger, compassionate, healing opportunity. Who hasn't felt the strong tug of anger, even rage, over some perceived wrong or loss in life that was seen as unfair and unjust? It's almost as if you and I "think" that the world owes us, and we are deserving, and it's only fitting for life to "work out" pretty fair, just and equitable. What does the world and life know of our claim? In fact, who actually makes this claim?? Hardly our True Self since it has no attachments, dwells in the space of Presence and wonder, and finds anything and everything utterly fascinating. So what's left you ask? Well, if who you truly are is indifferent over things being fair, just and equitable or not, then who besides our imaginary ego-minds could be involved?

Oftentimes when someone blows a fuse over perceiving some situation as unfair, unjust and inequitable, the circumstances seem to have piled up on this person, who can often become emotionally flooded or overwhelmed, sometimes with becoming quite animated, irate and hysterical. Take the instance of having a car repaired and each time it is "fixed" something else breaks down, like first having the carburetor tuned up, then needing a master seal replaced and then finding out you require a rebuilt engine! Or after having a medical surgery to repair a torn rotator cup in your right shoulder, you developed a duodenal (stomach) hernia, and afterwards your gall bladder needs to be removed! Or you have "one of those days" in which by middle afternoon you have missed your ride, scrapped your arm drawing blood, tore your clothing, got a speeding ticket, received a threatening email or phone message from your boss, and had a fight with your spouse or partner over the phone! It would be understandable to scream, "It's not fair! Life is just not just! I shouldn't be having so many difficulties!!"

What is most remarkable is that the upset, anger and disgust is more about the unfairness, injustice and lack of equitability of these escalating unwanted circumstances than the events themselves. Again, it's almost like we've made an unspoken, implicit or tacit agreement with God and the universe for everything to work out, for there to be some natural or inherent form of justice, for some Clint Eastwood type character in celestial heaven to make it all come out right and good. Of course, nothing in the universe, including our lives, works like this. Are these "concepts" real? Does fairness and justice actually exist in the world, or did you and I and society make them up, assume they are real, appoint them as the way things ought to be, and then be strongly disappointed, upset and harshly project this onto others when our ideas do not happen in the empirical world?

Does chance and chance events know anything of fairness? Do bacteria, viruses and diseases? Do defeating and destructive "run-ins", sometimes called accidents and coincidences, know anything of justice? How about when your immediate supervisor, their boss and the big boss overlook your fine work, years of service and loyalty by going outside the organization to hire a new department head? Does the windy inclement weather know anything about the fine new suit or outfit you just bought and want to wear tonight? What becomes remarkably evident is that what reality brings us moment by moment is simply what reality brings us, nothing more and nothing less, and don't require our critique. Events, situations and circumstances have nothing at all to do with our concepts, wants, attachments, assumptions and expectations. "What is" is just what is.

Consider the possibility that all concepts without exception, including fairness, justice and equitability, are originated and invented by our minds or egos. Given that all conceptualizations have no actually reality and are only words being used to point or stand for something, how much longer do you want to invest your life in what is not real? It is only our ego-minds that make the claim for life to turn out fair, just and equitable. Such personal claims, and particularly claims for our life to be perfectly fair, just and equitable, must surely lead to ruin, unrelenting upsets, unsolvable dramas, skepticism, cynicism, bitterness and for some "injustice collecting." Does any good come from traveling on this road? Does this road lead anywhere you want to go?

Of course, life is not so much unfair, unjust or inequitable; life is simply life and knows nothing of these claims. So if as a human being you hold the values of fairness, justice and equitability, that is fine. You are welcome to create what apparent fairness, justice and equitability you can knowing that such a vision can at best be most daunting, challenging and nearly impossible to attain sometimes. As author Theodore I. Rubin, M.D. declares in his 1975 book Compassion and Self-Hate, you do not have to use justice as a possible base for self-hate; rather you can take a more compassionate point of view.

Since any discussion of the subject of fairness and justice tends to evoke strong reactive feelings, being positional and animation of the fictive ego self, I've always tempered it with a greeting card and a cartoon. The greeting card is one a client sent me years ago. It shows a large cat looking sincere and blasé saying, "Sometimes, Life can seem unfair, life can seem hard, life can seem unrewarding, but there's a good reason for that." When you open the card, it says, "Life is unfair, hard and unrewarding." I added an asterisk and the word "Sometimes" along with, "Garbage happens…and joy happens too!"

The cartoon I share is a classic Calvin and Hobbes three-frame strip that depicts Calvin challenging his father about his bedtime in saying, "Why can't I stay up late? You guys can! IT'S NOT FAIR!" Calvin's droll father answers, "The world isn't fair, Calvin." Calvin sulks away saying, "I know, but why isn't it ever unfair in my favor?" The intriguing part is that we do know life isn't fair, and we don't want to acknowledge it! Given our brain's and mind's strong negativity bias, it is no wonder that when anything doesn't seem to go our way, we jump to the conclusion that life is once again being unfair to us. Talk about taking things personally! Human egos have inherent, conditioned radar to spot whenever life does not conform to our wishes and expectations, thus perceiving life as not being in our favor. Almost nobody wants to hear, "Life is unfair." In fact, the American voting electorate did not re-elect President Jimmy Carter who declared this.

It may come as a bit of a surprise that life regularly is unfair in our favor, and most of us, most of the time, simply do not recognize it. In fact, when life is unfair in our favor, our ego minds are quite happy to get swollen with pride and take full credit. That I missed hitting another car when traffic abruptly slowed down is because I have so many years of experience driving, my razor-sharp reaction time, how bright I was to purchase a car with a superb braking system, and so on. Wonderful rationalizations and excuses all, and not even close to the straight-up truth. While each may have played some role, the car run-in or accident that did not occur is an everyday example of life being unfair in our favor. It happens all the time. Consider these common illustrations: you are the last person who gets tickets to a favorite music event, or you just catch a flight by minutes, or you find a parking spot in a crowded location immediately, or you miss a flying piece of metal by inches, and on and on and on. Each is simply life being unfair in your favor.

The least we can do is to simply acknowledge that life is as likely to be unfair NOT in our favor as it is to be unfair IN our favor. This view gives life balance as it really shows up, releases energy and animosity on the whole issue, and welcomes the lovely space of true equanimity in any set of circumstances, a "live and let live" attitude. Who knew? Can you imagine the issue of fairness and justice becoming a "non-issue" for you?