by Glynnis McDonnell, M.A.
“Life SHOULD be fair!” I find myself getting caught up in this kind of thinking a lot- when someone cuts in front of me in line, when I see some people being granted opportunities that others aren’t, when I miss the train because someone cut me off in the train parking lot and parked between the last two parking spaces, and the list goes on. In theory, life would definitely be better if things were fair- we’d all get the things we worked for or waited our turn for, and life would be great! As nice as this theory of mine (and probably of many others) is, it’s not rational because, in actuality, life isn’t fair! When I demand that life be fair when it isn’t, I cause myself distress. Sometimes, my irrational belief that the world has to be fair causes me to feel angry, other times sadness or anxiety. However my internal demand for fairness has rarely, if ever, succeeded in actually rectifying an unfair situation. In fact, there are probably times that it has made situations worse because negative emotions can make it more difficult to figure out how to effectively navigate a situation (whether the situation is fair or not)! When I weigh these observations, it is clear that my demand for fairness is obviously not helping me in our intrinsically unfair world- it is causing me distress and making it harder for me to act effectively while life continues to be unfair. As more unfair situations inevitably arise, I will work on replacing my demand that life must be fair with the more rational belief that I would prefer for life to be fair and things would probably be better if life were fair, but there is no reason that life MUST be fair.