Why Isn’t Life Fair? Part 2. By Dr Linda Berman


“Expecting a trouble-free life because you are a good person is like expecting the bull not to charge you because you are a vegetarian.”

 Jeffrey R. Holland

Whoever said life was meant to be fair?

As we saw in last week’s post, there is much to feel aggrieved about at the moment in terms of the unfairness of life.

“But what now? What am I supposed to do with all these feelings?”
Jenny Han.

Read on to discover some further Ways Of Thinking  to help us cope with the emotions engendered by the pandemic…..

  • Attitude 1: Adjusting our Expectations.

“The secret of happiness, you see, is not found in seeking more, but in developing the capacity to enjoy less.”


Expecting fairness will often result in disappointment. It is, actually, expecting too much. Life just isn’t like that.

Sometimes life is good, things go our way, and then we can really enjoy ourselves, rejoicing in our good fortune and happiness. But nothing lasts.

“To survive and flourish in such a world, you will need a lot of mental flexibility and great reserves of emotional balance. You will have to repeatedly let go of some of what you know best, and feel at home with the unknown.”

Yuval Noah Harari, 21 Lessons for the 21st Century

Everything is impermanent, except uncertainty and not-knowing what will happen next.

“The only thing that makes life unfair is the delusion that it should be fair.”

Steve Maraboli.

“These are hard and uncertain times we’re living in,” he said. “You never know what will still be here tomorrow. That’s why we must take joy every day in what we do have, so it’s something we can carry in our memories when things change.”
Jaye L. Knight.

A sense of entitlement to fairness and an expectation that life will be fair is a recipe for disaster. We will be disappointed.

Instead, could we adjust our expectations and whilst hoping for the best, prepare for the worst?

“It may be unfair, but what happens in a few days, sometimes even a single day, can change the course of a whole lifetime…”

Khaled Hosseini

Coping with what feel like utterly random changes in our life is very difficult. It can be even harder if we expect life to be fair to us.

Adjusting our expectations involves being flexible in our thinking, being prepared for disappointment, accepting imperfections in self and other.

A rigid view of life is therefore unhelpful, in that it encourages unchanging attitudes and expectations of fairness that will ultimately be proved to be unrealistic.

  • Attitude 2: We Cannot Control The World, But We Can Control Our Own Responses And Reactions.


Seymour Joseph Guy. Bedtime Story. 1878.

“If life was fair and perfect, we wouldn’t have stories to tell.”

Nikya Prakash.

Can we survive life’s unfairness?

Fairytales and fables often provide us with an early example of life’s difficulties by showing how things can sometimes go wrong. Some people might be wicked and cruel and the world may seem cruel as well.

There are monsters and witches, but there are also fairies and fairy godmothers. Crises and constraints can sometimes be lived through and life can go well for a while.

With wisdom and a courageous approach, we might be able to get through some of life’s unfair blows.

If we can, we will have the resulting stories to tell our children and grandchildren, certainly about the pandemic of 2020!

“Live as brave men; and if fortune is adverse, front its blows with brave hearts.”

Marcus Tullius Cicero


Disney Cinderella Trailer. Flickr.

Fairytales reveal that, with a constructive attitude, with flexibility, resilience and fortitude, we can survive life’s storms.

Even when things do not go our way, there can be compensations. Such stories show us that there are lessons to be learned from even the most difficult experiences.

We may not be in control of what happens to us, but accepting life’s uncertainties can be liberating.

“We don’t control anything. Life just happens and we are flowing with it. But we don’t see this evident truth for what it is. Because, when we do something and it delivers a result we want, we think we caused that outcome. And when we don’t get what we want, we feel that Life is unfair.

But Life is not bothered – neither about our claim nor about how we feel. Life has a mind of its own; it just keeps on happening. So, the only way to inner peace is to flow with Life…doing whatever best we can in any given situation…that is the key to being non-worrying, non-frustrated and non-suffering, to be happy despite the circumstances!”

AVIS Viswanathan

  • Attitude 3. Think About The Complaint Culture.


Image: Nevit Dilmen. Wikimedia Commons.

“Do not complain, do not rejoice, try to understand.”


What is the complaint culture actually about?

It must be strongly emphasised here that complaining may at times be vital and very necessary. Where we perceive injustice, lack of care, crime, abuse, harassment, deprivation, racism and suffering, it is crucial to speak out, complain loudly and try to get something done about it.


Janne Kearney – Me Too [2017]

However, complaining can sometimes be a way of shirking one’s personal responsibility, putting the blame on others and selfishly acting out one’s own feelings of having been unfairly treated in the past.

The interesting research paper, below, reveals how this might happen:

“We propose…. that feeling wronged gives people a sense of entitlement to obtain positive outcomes—and to avoid negative ones—that frees them from the usual requirements of social life. Whereas individuals typically contend with a strong norm of benevolence that encourages helping and curbs egoism, we propose that wronged individuals, because of their heightened sense of entitlement, feel relieved from this communal obligation and therefore exhibit more selfish intentions and behaviour.”

Zitek, Jorda, Leqch & Monin. Victim Entitlement to Behave Selfishly

A sense of entitlement, as described above, has its origins in deprivation and often causes people to feel badly done to.

Constantly feeling aggrieved may have its roots in a childhood that felt unfair and victimising, leading to the adult generalising from this experience and projecting a distinct sense of unfairness onto the world.

“Some people make it extremely difficult to continue believing that complaining is not one of the basic human needs.”
Mokokoma Mokhonoana


©Linda Berman

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