Why I tell my kids to be glad that life is not fair – and You Should Too!
How do you respond when your kids complain that life isn’t fair? I know I’m not the only mom who has heard one child complain because the other has a friend over and she doesn’t, or he gets to have soda and she didn’t, or a whole host of other laments and woes that seem to pour forth from kids’ mouths. “But Mooommm, it’s not faaaaiiirrr!”
For a long time I answered with, “You’re right, life isn’t fair. The sooner you come to peace with that fact the happier you will be.” The kids may not complain for a few moments, and I do believe that coming to peace with the lack of fairness in life is a good thing, but my answer didn’t solve the child’s dilemma at all and I’m not sure it helped much in the parenting realm.
And then I heard another response.
“You’re right. Life isn’t fair. And you should be glad it isn’t fair.”
Now that one stopped me in my tracks for a moment. Why would I tell my kids to not only get over the fact that life isn’t fair but to celebrate it as well?
But it is so true.
Several years ago I had a chance to go to the Dominican Republic with Habitat for Humanity and spend about a week helping build and repair simple houses for people there. I love to do this kind of work and was super excited for the experience. After a few days there I remember looking around at the men and women who had so very little – so little – and yet they were so happy. So content with what they had. In comparison, they had so little and I had so much. I remember coming home and thinking that it was only by God’s grace that I was born to American parents and lived in America. Life was not fair – and I was the one who got the long end of the stick. I never had to worry about clean water or having a solid house or getting enough food. My life is so good!
Life is not fair. And you better not complain about it.
When my son approached me and (did not complain but) asked why exactly it was that he should be glad that life isn’t fair, it was easy to answer.
Because if life was fair, instead of you getting a bagel for breakfast and a quesadilla with salsa for lunch and a burger and fresh carrots for dinner and a bowl of ice cream for dessert, you would have shared; you would have traded meals with someone else; you might have gotten a bowl of rice and two carrots and the homeless guy down by the river would have had your burger. If life was fair, everything would be shared equally, and all the people whom we consider the ‘have-nots’ would have gotten much of what you have – and you would end up with a lot less. Your bed would probably belong to someone else and you might have just a blanket, but not a soft mattress. Or a tent, not a house. We might have a donkey, but not a 15 passenger van. You might have one shirt, instead of a drawer full. If life was fair, so much of what we have would be given to someone else. So be grateful life isn’t fair.