The two most memorable lines I can remember from my mother growing up were, “Life’s not fair” and “I never promised you a rose garden.” It would infuriate me to no end when she would recite either to me. I honestly felt that justice must prevail in our democratic society.
I remember a specific instance in Junior High when I pissed off a teacher. (Admittedly, I was a bit of a wiseguy.) I don’t remember exactly what I said to her on this particular occasion, but she really blew her top. She was so angry with me that she came up behind me while I was at my locker, put her scraggly hands around my neck and squeezed. Hard. Then she brought me to the headmaster’s office and had me suspended. I just couldn’t believe it! I might have made her angry, but how is it that I get punished when she is the one who physically attacked me?
Or take the incident with the pervert gym teacher in the same catholic school. I had just changed out of my gym clothes and was lined up outside the locker room, waiting for the rest of the group so we could be dismissed to our next class. The teacher literally grabbed me and pushed me into the girls locker room, as he laughs his ass off. Suspended again. I did nothing wrong, yet I get suspended — and this guy can get his rocks off checking out the girls changing at my expense. Not fair!
These, of course, are just juvenile examples. Our lives are full of these types of examples. As we grow older, often these injustices are much harder to swallow.
Let’s say, for example’s sake, you are wronged by someone. Say it’s more than obvious you are right and the other person is wrong. Say you have lots of evidence and you bring them to court. Then let’s say that the judge finds them innocent, and you get stuck not only losing the case — but also paying legal fees. Not fair, right? Well, this kind of thing happens every day.
Or worse yet. You lose your child to cancer. Your spouse is murdered. The list is endless.
The question is, “What can we do about it?”
I’ve had a lot of practice with this one. I’ve tried out many types of responses. In the end, there is usually nothing that can be done. After all, “Life’s not fair!”
Instead what I have found to work for me is to let it go and to move on. Easy to do? HELL NO! But what’s the alternative? To fester in our own misery?
As incredibly painful as these situations can be, they are also, undeniably, opportunities for us to grow and to learn. Each time we are confronted with an “injustice,” we are given the chance to accept full responsibility for how we respond emotionally. The act of accepting responsibility is a loving action we take toward ourselves.
When we don’t accept responsibility, we put all the blame on others and we make ourselves the “victim.” Conversely, accepting responsibility is a way to empower ourselves.
I’ve learned to replace my mom’s line, “Life’s not fair” with my own line, “It’s not good; it’s not bad; it’s just the way it is.”
In grad school we would hear all the time,“This — or something greater — for the highest good of all concerned.” I found it to be a useful phrase to help pull me back out of self-victimization and back into taking personal responsibility.
I know my mom didn’t ever promise me a rose garden. But at least I know that I have the ability to make my own.