If you’ve ever been around children you’ve likely heard “no fair!” shouted in anger or frustration, or whispered with tears running down the child’s face.
“No fair” is only six letters, but when uttered in pain reads more like,
“why not me?”
“why am I the one who’s left out?”
“why didn’t I get that chance? (or thing or experience)”
“No fair” translates into “I don’t like it and I don’t understand it.”
As adults, we often don’t understand why something happens.
Children want to feel that they’re just as important as everyone else. I’ve seen families where one child is favored over another. Maybe that child is prettier, smarter or funnier. Perhaps the child has special needs—or simply different needs. The child, who isn’t getting what seems fair however, only knows that he feels “less than”.
As adults we want the same thing– to feel like we’re “just as important”.
Children compare themselves to their siblings, cousins and friends. You might hear, “it’s not fair that Mike has a brand new baseball bat and I’m using his old one”.
As adults we compare ourselves to others too.
For some, the answer to a child’s “not fair” is, “life’s not fair, so get used to it” or “life hasn’t been fair to me either”. We might even try to get down on their level and explain why the situation is fair. But unless the child is old enough to be able to clearly hear what’s being said, that usually doesn’t help. All the child knows is that something doesn’t “feel right”. Addressing a child’s feelings with love, empathy and patience is important.
As adults, when we’re upset, hearing “life isn’t fair” doesn’t really help us either. We, too, need love, empathy and support.
Children often believe that fair and equal are the same thing. That’s not true. Fair is freedom from injustice or bias. Equal is alike in degree or quantity.
As adults we may understand that fair and equal are not alike, but we still want to feel like we’re treated and honored, fairly and equally.
When we get to adulthood, many of us still have the notion/desire that life should be fair. We may have heard “what goes around, comes around”, but most of us have never witnessed the “coming around”.
We pledge allegiance to our flag with the words “for liberty and justice for all”, even though in our country there is not liberty and justice for all. People in places of authority (or people who are wealthier or more beautiful) sometimes seem to get away with things that many of us wouldn’t. Sadly, our world is sometimes an unjust, unfair place.
As adults we yell “no fair”—we just don’t necessarily use those two words. Instead, we say, “how could someone treat me that way?” or “what did I ever do to deserve that?” If explaining how we feel gets swept under the proverbial rug, the pain is compounded. Feeling victimized could occur. (Some people actually define themselves by how unfair life has been to them.) We definitely don’t want our children to feel like they’re “victims” and nor should we. We need to acknowledge and honor our feelings, and move forward, recognizing that we have different values and different “rules of life”. If you’ve lived in “The Land of No Fair” for some time, come back to your life—not unscathed or unaffected, but with a resolve that you do matter, that your life has value, and that you are worthwhile.
Right now I’m in a situation that I truly don’t understand. I’ve said words that translate into “it’s not fair” (to myself, to a few others, and to God) more than I care to admit. Of course, I desire to be the “bigger person”. Of course, I believe that in the grand scheme of life, “this too shall pass”. But right now I’m in pain. I’ve allowed a season I love to be tainted, by the cloud over my head that I’ve given power to.
When we truly don’t understand something that’s happening in life, we’re like that little child yelling, “no fair!”
On a Monday, a man was walking down a road. All of a sudden, out of nowhere, he found himself at the bottom of a dark place and was scared. After several hours, he figured out that he had fallen into a very large pothole. He wasn’t able to get out on his own—it required a lot of help, and it was awful.
On Tuesday, the man was walking down the road and fell into the pothole again! This time he immediately knew where he was, but he couldn’t get out alone.
On Wednesday, when he fell into the pothole for the third time, he remembered how to get out and, even though it was tough, got out on his own.
On Thursday, as the man approached the pothole, he remember the last three falls. He even saw the pothole when he got close, but he fell in anyway. This time he knew exactly how to get out quickly.
On Friday, the man saw the pothole from a good distance away. He felt proud of himself for recognizing, and while it took a lot of concentration, he managed to walk around it safely, and didn’t fall in.
On Saturday…..the man took a different road.
This guy could have thought, “this sure isn’t fair—all I’m trying to do is walk down the road and I keep falling into a hole”. Instead, he learned that he had to make the “unfairness” go away by taking a different route—by taking a road that was a little less fraught with personal harm.
I want to avoid the pothole. I want to walk another way. I want to always recognize what’s in front of me, and take the road that honors my spirit.
May your year begin “pothole free”, filled with light, and overflowing with love and joy.
Happy New Year,
p.s. from “The Checklist from Z to A”: #42. Don’t hit the snooze button, seize the day (and each moment); sleep is critical, but dozing off for an additional five or ten minutes doesn’t really change a lot. Instead, jump out of bed (okay crawl out if necessary) and jump into the new day.