My four-year-old has recently adopted this phrase into his daily dialogue. Despite the fact that I, as well as the majority of the children raised in this country, have all used this phrase on too many occasions to count, it truly irks me to the center of my being. There are many, many unfair situations in our nation and in our world, none of which apply to my son. I realize he’s four and whatever situation he’s facing probably does seem unfair to him. Yet the surfacing of this phrase in our house has ignited this drive in me to not only squash his use of this phrase but also teach all my children a true sense of justice and, therefore, the ability to recognize injustice.
In contemplating how to teach a four-year-old and his soon-to-be two younger brothers about justice, I’ve realized that this isn’t a problem that applies only to children facing an unwanted consequence. Many of my peers, adults in the “real world” or young adults trying to enter it, seem to walk around with this same chip on their shoulder. My siblings’ friends, college students and young adults, seem to have the same attitude. Even my parents’ friends, adults who have been working and providing for years, and perhaps even to multiple generations, seem to fall back on this sentiment. How is it that a phrase we adopt in very early childhood manages to stick with us and sometimes even become a crutch to use for the rest of our lives?
I know my dad would often respond to my cries of injustice with the thoughtful life lesson that “life’s not fair.” Maybe this is what most parents say. Maybe most children accept it and it becomes an anthem in their lives. Maybe not. But, somehow, understanding and accepting that life’s not fair seems to have become engraved in the majority of us. How sad is that?
We are all so very blessed. I know everyone, myself included, faces daily struggles and monumental hardships in life, but I don’t think that amounts to any kind of injustice. Life is hard, but I wouldn’t say it’s unfair. Even when we’ve been dealt a particularly challenging hand, how does complaining that “it’s not fair” help the situation? It doesn’t.
I think that when we’re tempted to fall back on that classic line is when we need to stop and recognize that we need to give ourselves a healthy dose of perspective. Look around and evaluate the real injustices which surround us. Do something to make a difference in someone else’s life or in someone else’s community. I think the times we find it especially hard to cope with the situations we’re facing is the very best time to reach out and serve others. Doing so provides that much-needed perspective and makes one’s own challenges and struggles so much more bearable.
Some people are drowning financially, some are facing terminal illness, a death in the family, plates over-loaded by seemingly unending responsibilities. For my four-year-old, it’s usually facing some kind of consequence. No matter how big our struggles are in relation to our personal capabilities, there are still many more others out there struggling more, facing bigger giants, and suffering as victims of real injustice.
I don’t mean to downplay anyone’s personal struggles. My point is just that in facing our own hardships it is so easy to become self-absorbed and overwhelmed by the “fairness” or lack thereof in our own lives. Keeping a healthy perspective and giving of your time, talent, or treasure despite your own struggles would probably go a long way in eradicating this disease of worrying about what’s “fair.”
So far, these little pearls of wisdom are going over like a lead balloon at our house. Luckily, my oldest is only four. I still have a long time to help mold him into a person who finds joy in putting others first, and recognizes how blessed he really is, despite the struggles will that come his way on the road of life.