Life Isn’t Fair. But We Shouldn’t Just Shrug Our Shoulders and Move On

“Life isn’t fair.”

I don’t consciously dwell on the vagaries of life very often (even though I’m often working toward a cause), but Sunday’s Stanley Cup game made me think about fairness all over again. A call of goalie interference at one point during the game would have resulted in a different outcome. My husband’s position as a Rangers fan means that we felt the sting of unfairness at a deeper level.

Stanley Cup

The Rangers worked hard and played hard. Some sportscasters argued that, even though they messed up some chances to score in the course of the two overtimes, they still played better than the Kings overall. But all of that didn’t result in a win. Instead, the Rangers are down 2-0  3-0 in the series.

My son also recently felt the pang of disappointment when his Odyssey of the Mind team didn’t make the cut to go to Worlds. There were a few issues with their project (which I can mention now that this year’s Worlds competition is over). One of the problems is that the team, when creating a skit, didn’t include the building component in the plot.

Another issue was that my son decided to take a bit of a risk. There were extra points for building more than three stackable sections. My son decided to build five sections and get those points. However, the trade off was that he couldn’t strengthen the structure to hold more weight, since the total structure could only weigh so much. He was the only builder to complete a structure with more than three sections; everyone else played it safe.

This was a little different, since the calculated risk didn’t pay off as much as hoped for, and the team didn’t properly fulfill the terms of the assignment for the skit. But the fact remains that if things in life were “fair,” the situation might have been different. What if more teams had built more than three sections?

Life Isn’t Fair, and It Never Will Be

Part of the unfairness of life comes from circumstance, and part of it comes from choice. But, no matter how good your choices are, and how fabulous you are as a person, there are times that unfairness is just built in. If you’re born on third base, it’s much easier get to home plate and score than it is for the person that has to stand up there, hit the ball (don’t forget that good hitters still strike out 2/3 of the time), and then run all the bases.

And, even if you do make poor choices (and we all make poor decisions from time to time), the truth is that being born on third base often means that your poor decisions aren’t nearly so devastating and difficult to overcome as the poor choices of those born with a baseball bat in hand and a tougher prospect ahead.

Yes, the person on third base still has to run hard and do some serious work. There is the potential for a setback, like being thrown out at home. But, even so, your chances of success are much greater. Yes, it takes some smarts, and some cunning, and some effort, to make it home plate. But let’s be realistic here. It doesn’t really compare to finally hitting that ball, then running as hard as you can to first. Then booking it to second. And then finding yourself in a forced-out situation as you approach third.

life isn't fair

You made all the “right” decisions and worked your butt off and still came up short. Meanwhile, everyone’s congratulating the guy/gal (who started on third, mind you) for making it home and scoring on someone else’s hit. Even after all that effort you put in, everyone congratulates Mr./Ms. Born-On-Third-Base for having fortitude and working hard and being so swell. On the other hand, you’re told you’re lazy and useless and didn’t try hard enough because you were forced out at third. If you had just worked harder or made better decisions, you could have had all the success that Mr./Ms. Born-On-Third-Base earned.

Well, that’s just the way life is. Life isn’t fair.

But just because life isn’t fair, it doesn’t mean that we can’t try to change things — at least a little bit.

I’m not content to look at inequities, injustice, and problems and shrug my shoulders. I don’t think it’s right to say “life isn’t fair” and move on.

I recognize the fact that I was born on second base. Yeah, I work hard. I’ve built a pretty successful business (but I’ve also had help with that business). Even when I’ve made some pretty crappy decisions, I’ve managed to recover. I might have started to make a move to steal third, but my position means I’ve been able to course-correct. It’s not fun, and it sometimes means sliding in the dirt to beat the throw back to second, but I started out with advantages that many people don’t have, and I live a nice life. Right now, I feel like I’m mostly home, poised to score.

And here’s the truth that I recognize: No matter how hard I work, there is someone — probably millions of someones all over the world — out there, born without the same advantages I was born with (a white female born to a middle-class family in the suburbs of the United States is fairly privileged in our society), working much, much harder. That person, no matter how much work s/he does, or how smart s/he is, or how many good decisions s/he makes, will never, EVER have the same opportunities, quality of life, or advantages that I often take for granted.

Because life isn’t fair.

Life isn’t fair, but that doesn’t mean we should turn our backs on others, or assume that they somehow don’t deserve help and compassion just because they didn’t have the good fortune to be born on second or third base.

That’s why I’m a progressive. I know I can’t make life better for everyone, everywhere. And I can’t change the fact that life isn’t fair. But I sure as hell can work to change my little corner of the world, and I can try to create situations in which a few other people have a bit of help hitting the ball and running the bases.

One Response to Life Isn’t Fair. But We Shouldn’t Just Shrug Our Shoulders and Move On

  1. “That’s why I’m a progressive. I know I can’t make life better for everyone, everywhere. And I can’t change the fact that life isn’t fair. But I sure as hell can work to change my little corner of the world, and I can try to create situations in which a few other people have a bit of help hitting the ball and running the bases.”

    Let’s lead this to it’s logical conclusion. How can this be achieved? By the force of a gun in government. In almost all cases taking rights away from others and distributing it to others, so then it’s “fair’ by some non-objective subjective measure.

    In the said baseball metaphor you use, is it “fair” that a baseball player can throw 95mph fast balls and I can’t? I accept I’ll never be a great baseball player, just in the same way I know most baseball players suck at computers and could never do what I do with technology. I don’t ask the MLB or some government agency to fix this issue to handicap a baseball player who excels in that sport.

    The easier way in life is to accept life isn’t fair and use the advantages of what you have personally to your advantage. The issue in life is figuring out what exactly makes you special, not to worry about others and what’s subjectively unfair.

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