Thursday, January 27, 2011

I Beg Your Pardon, I Never Promised You ... Life Was Fair



Last evening I was semi-watching an old Law & Order episode with Carol Burnett while multitasking between Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and emails, when Burnett turns to her doctor after learning that she's dying and says,  "No one ever said that life was fair, only that it was eventful."

One more time. 

No one ever said life was fair, only that it was eventful.

Whoa!  Beam me up Scottie!

When I was a kid, my parent’s often-used phrase “Life’s not fair” was tossed back at my brother and I whenever we whined about some unjustness,  “But that’s not fair!  Why did she ..?  What about me...?”

I hated it when my parents said, “Life’s not fair.”  Of course, when I  grew older, I understood.  Life sometimes is unfair.  And like my parents, when my own children echoed those same words to me, I simply replied with the standard, “Sorry, but life’s not fair.”

But somewhere there has been a shift in our society.  It seems wherever I turn, there is a concern about fairness.   Equal opportunity seems old fashioned.  Nowadays, people want equal outcome.

And why wouldn’t they?  Think about it.  Little League tournaments?  Everyone gets a trophy.  Spelling Bee contests?  Everyone wins a prize for participating.  Birthday parties?  Gifts for all attendees. 

Wow!  Imagine when you were a kid, all you had to do was show up, and you would win a trophy, receive an award or be handed a present. 

But what would have been the incentive to work harder, to strive for more, to desire success, if one was awarded a prize that was equal to everyone else?

I’m intrigued when I observe parents trying to make everything fair for their children, creating within them a sense of entitlement.   I’m afraid we are doing them a disservice.

Because simply, there is no fairness in life.

You work 14 hour days and the guy who takes 3 hour lunches gets the promotion.

You never smoked a day in your life, but you discover you have lung cancer.

Your husband, who you have supported and cared for during his illness, leaves you for a colleague after 30 years of marriage.

Good things will not necessarily happen to good people. 

Hard work doesn’t always bring success, but pride in a job well-done is priceless.

Healthy habits don’t guarantee good health, but feeling good about your choices builds self-esteem.

And giving your love away doesn’t guarantee it will be returned, but nothing is as joyous as moments of selfless love.

Life isn't fair.   We can not make it equal for all, and it’s not clear that we should.  Compassion, yes.  Equal opportunity, absolutely.  Equal outcomes?  Sorry.  To teach otherwise is, well....... Unfair.

And now, thank you Carol Burnett, I have a new phrase whenever someone tells me “Life is unfair.”

Yes, it is!

But it sure is eventful!

And it is what we make of those events that count.  Not the things we have nor the things we obtain.

Really now, isn’t that the beauty of it all?

Eventfully yours,
missing the mom gene

2 comments:

Brad Jaeger said...

I love this post. I've often railed on that old school, Protestant, quasi-militaristic notion that hard work = success or happiness. While I have no doubt that it increases the probability, bad things can and will happen. To everyone. Regardless of personal choice, drive, or determination.

Eventful is an intriguing way to put it. I may just have to steal that saying.

Great post!

missing the mom gene said...

Brad, glad you enjoyed! I guess my flavor on life is we get out of it what we put in to it. Either way, it's a wild ride!