“Life isn’t fair.”
We hear that a lot, most often as a bromide offered to reassure someone who has experienced some calamity or seemingly unjust return on their best efforts.
It’s not true.
Life is fair.
That might seem like pretzeled logic, but our notions of fair reveal a lot about our beliefs that somehow we can stand in the right queue to receive our due ladle of reward and blessings for our best efforts.
Too often, we commit ourselves (and our sense of worth) to outcomes we really cannot control. Yes, success (and that elusive chalice called Luck) comes more often to the diligent, but there is no guarantee. Sadly, neither does justice always bear down on those most deserving of its gavel.
We all have stories about someone who “got away with it” — the business that cut corners without being caught, the neglectful CEO who laughed all the way to the bank with a fat severance, the sleazy partner or investor who out-manuevered others at their expense, the office politician who curries favor for the promotion. Someday, we mutter, they’ll have it coming. Someday…
“Fair” denies randomness
Then there’s the opposite, the undeserved pain borne by the least deserving. Bad things happen to good businesses, but it is usually on a personal level that we feel the most turmoil about the distribution of fairness. The call from the doctor, the car running the red light at the intersection, the brother-in-law who embezzles a family’s fortune, the relationship betrayed. It’s not fair, we appeal. We plead for justice, for that deserved outcome.
Life is fair, because it is equally random as much as it is directional. There are no guarantees and we can have a very limited vision of outcomes, goodness, justice and purpose. The rain falls on the righteous and the unrighteous all the same.
When we accept this, we stop straining for what we think we deserve and instead make the most of what is dealt. I’m not sure I’d really want to trade struggle for comfort if it means losing sight of what might matter more the next time the rains come. It’s called resilience — that determination to endure, to redeem, to rally again — and that we can control.
When we take our wins and losses in stride, when we embrace the learning that comes with whatever the outcome is, we grow — and our growth has much more definition and value than anything we might see today in our limited field of vision. We may pay a dear price, but through our resilience develop empathy, patience, purpose, humility … and grace.