Article, Common Struggles & Questions

Fairness is the New Entitlement

I was playing around with the word Fair or Fairness the other day as it’s a point that very easily sneaks up its head. Especially if you’re someone who’s more rationally, logically inclined – it’s so easy to come up with arguments and point at all the x,y, z variables in your reality or environment that are ‘out of place’ as to why things are difficult for you and why you have the right to be frustrated and have somewhat of an inner tantrum.

If we have an honest look at the world around us, we quickly realise that there’s nothing fair about it. More than 3 billion people live in poverty. One in nine people are stuck in starvation. Animals are going through extinction, nature’s being raped faster than we can regenerate her. You could pretty much say that life on Earth is a bubble of unfairness. Nothing’s the way it should be. But we’re not spending all our time and energy moaning and complaining about that. No, we throw a tantrum when someone else got a job we wanted. THEN we get upset. When we feel like our partner is not carrying his or her weight in terms of responsibilities around the house. THEN we get pissed off.

While the truth is, that nothing is fair about the world we live in. Absolutely nothing. It’s a ginormous mess. Taking that into consideration, it’s really rather peculiar how selective we are about what we complain about and where we use ‘fairness’ as an excuse and justification to vent out our own personal frustrations. Now, I’m not saying we should start to complain about every single little thing that’s wrong in our world. Or to ‘equalize’ our complaining so we complain a bit about everything lol.

But insisting that things should be fair in our little world, when obviously our little problems are the result of much greater discrepancies in the world we live is like focusing on a light that’s not working in our car rather than looking deeper and having a look at what the actual problem is. Fixing the light so it’s permanently on doesn’t mean our car is fixed.

When we enter a state of fairness, I’ve found that we’re essentially fighting ourselves, our own personal nature and reality. The world we live in and the structures governing it today, are a reflection of our inner realities. As within so without. And you might say, well you know what, I had nothing to do with that. It’s the people who came before me, it’s things that happened before my time – I had no part in this!

But when we are completely honest with ourselves, we’ll find that much of what we condemn and judge in the world as bad and undesirable, we are living out ourselves in our everyday life. We may not be a big bank involves in massive fraud, or a corrupt government institution. But perhaps we are constantly looking out for bargains in shops. Really picky about spending our money. Buying things for less when we actually do have the money to pay a decent price for a product or service. Leading to people being paid lower and lower wages just to be able to remain active in the market. You may say, well, now you’re just blowing things out of proportion. These things are happening on two different scales! And yes, sure they are happening on different scales. But the underlying principles, the underlying pattern within both is the same: How can I have more money for myself regardless of what it does to anyone else? The desire and fear that fuels this patterns is the same for the person who’s doing it on a big scale as the person doing it in a micro scale. I bet each can justify their ends just as well as the other, regardless of the scale!

Perhaps the governmental agents feel entitled to power moves because they find the public to be too uneducated to take part in decision making, rather going behind its back. Because it’s ‘unfair that they would have to deal with such people who are inadequate to make thoughtful decisions’. Similarly, you might find it unfair that you have to spend your hard earned money, you are entitled to keep it and so will try to spend as little as possible – even though others worked just as hard to produce what you’re buying.

Fairness only breeds more fairness. Looking at it this way, we could actually say that we use what is supposed to be a noble cause, as fairness and equity, as a channel to pursue, validate and push forward our own private and self-interested sense of entitlement.

For instance, when my husband is around, I have the hidden expectation that he will help out more with say household points and spending time with our son. And when that expectation doesn’t get fulfilled, it’s all anger and fury inside myself, because it’s “so unfair”. The crux in this type of situation for myself, I found is not so much that I want him to help out, but that I believe I deserve more ‘off time’ and ‘me time’, where I believe and perceive myself to be missing out because theoretically, he could be providing me with that. And that I’m entitled to it. He still helps out here and there and on a practical level things are easier, yet on those days where’s he’s more around I find myself enjoying myself less and overall having a less pleasurable time because of the inner friction I find myself within. On days that he is not around and so know not to bring in my expectations, I may be busy all day without much time for myself but I am enjoying myself and satisfied because I know I am doing all I can. There’s no ‘what if’, there’s no choice to constantly reflect on, there’s no ‘greener grass’ to obsess about. It’s about what can I do. And how far can I push myself. My eyes are not locked and fixated on what others are doing and if they’re pushing themselves to their utmost. How am I supposed to ascertain that anyway? I only know myself, my reality, my capacity, my context. That’s why the principle of Self-Honesty is of utmost importance. To slack and do less than what you’re capable of simply because you perceive or believe others are not doing the same, and you don’t want to be seen as a loser. Is just plain self-sabotage. People come and go. The person you have to live with and stick with for the rest of your life, well is YOU. You need to be satisfied with yourself regardless of what anyone else is or isn’t doing.

By constantly focusing on our external reality and what COULD be, we miss out on who we could be and actively engaging our potential.

When I was playing around with the sound of the word Fairness, and Fair – I identified the sound ‘fare’. A fare, being typically a fee you pay for transport or the like as part of a journey you are on. When I take that concept back to myself, I see that I employ fairness much in the same way. Say, I will do the dishes, clean the room, tend to our son – not as a point of expression coming from me. Doing it, but doing it with much drag and resistance. These things then become ‘hard work’ and require ‘effort’. The ‘hard work’ and ‘effort’ then become the ‘fare’ I pay as the price of my journey to achieving the definition of a good mother and wife.

When we work hard for a job promotion or just looking for some acknowledgement but someone else gets it, we’re mad because – we paid our ‘fare’, we worked hard. And now this other person is getting away with it? But he/she didn’t pay his or her fare!!!

Fairness then becomes a means to want to equalize our suffering. Instead of supporting and empowering one another unconditionally, we only care to check that the chains holding everyone back are ‘just as tight’ and ‘just as long’.  Because we paid our fare, it’s only fair that we are entitled to x, y, z. We engage fairness as a fare we pay on our journey to achieve a certain self-definition or idea about ourselves. And if that idea or self-definition doesn’t manifest or gets proven wrong, everyone around you better hide.

By removing the concept of fairness, we’re placing ourselves in a position of absolute responsibility. It’s not about anyone else but ourselves. When we still employ fairness, we can forevermore point at our environment and the people within it as reasons why we’re unsatisfied and unhappy. Instead of seeing the things in our reality as challenges to better ourselves, we see them as obstacles there to make us miserable. When your boss yells at you and you feel awful for the next three days, it feels so justified and rational to say that you should set more boundaries. That he should not be acting that way. That you shouldn’t have to deal with people like that and shouldn’t experience yourself that way. But in a world permeated with unfairness, that doesn’t get you very far. You can keep on experiencing everything in your reality as a setback, or move yourself to make the best of any given situation despite what you’re being handed. We’ve screwed up this world beyond measure, and for each one of us it’s going to take more than our ‘fair share’ to set things right again. If we’re going to limit ourselves to what each person feels is right to them, or finds justifiable – we’re never going to create a better life on Earth for ourselves and the future generations to come. And while it feels like the most irrational thing to do, the most counter intuitive move to make – when we remove fairness from our lives and actually push ourselves to the potential we each have within us, you enter a state of liberation you would have never thought existing if you’d kept to fairness.

To place this all in a more practical, day to day context, an example:

A Day With Fairness

I wake up in the morning and want to get ready for making breakfast. My son wakes up and seems to be uncomfortable. I see the possibility for a quiet breakfast on my own disappear before my eyes and let out a deep sigh. This is so unfair. My whole body feels heavy and I grudgingly go to the bed to help him get started with his day. I’m still upset about not getting breakfast my way and this makes me short towards my son who grows increasingly frustrated at my unhelpfulness. In turn, I get irritated by my son, why can’t he just cooperate? I start with breakfast but my son is now whining about every little thing that is going wrong, and I start to now really lose my patience. In my head I am backchatting about all the things that are wrong in my life that I don’t notice that the eggs start to burn in the pan. Of course they’re burning. Everything just goes wrong for me. I dish up breakfast and my son complains he doesn’t want to eat the eggs cause they are burnt. I lash out and say FINE, THEN DON’T EAT ANYTHING!!! …

A Day Without Fairness

I wake up in the morning and get ready for making breakfast. My son wakes up and seems to be uncomfortable. I go check on him to see why he’s uncomfortable. He says he woke up cold. I give him a big warm hug and we lay together a bit in the bed until he feels better. I suggest that a nice breakfast will get our day nicely started. Since my son is quite settled he plays with his toys a bit on his own while I prepare breakfast. We’re both calm and I can pay attention to the eggs and make them just right. While we eat my son complains he doesn’t like the pepper on the egg. I tell him I didn’t know it would bother him and tell him that next time I will pay special attention to not put pepper on his eggs. He says ‘yes, now you know’. I scrape off the pepper from his egg as best as I can and he continues to eat. …

Our starting point determines everything. If we wake up and start our day with a mindset of everything that is wrong, lacking and unfair –  we weave these ingredients into all the aspects of our day. Our starting point then becomes equal to our end point. Unknowingly we sabotage ourselves and our day to confirm our original start point – that nothing is what it ‘should be’ and that ‘everything’s unfair’. However, when we are open and flexible and aim to make the best of each moment, we come up with responses and solutions that otherwise simply would not have to mind. We so insist that everything can only go wrong we don’t see how we can direct ourselves and our environment into a different direction.

So when you hit yourself into a bout of fairness, where you complain about all the injustices in your world – stop for a moment and take a break. Have a look at whether you’re really upset about the apparent unfairness of the situation, or whether there’s something behind it that you’re trying to achieve or fear losing. Use the moments of fairness to identify where you’re still using a sense of entitlement and you can instead approach the situation in humbleness. What can you take with you from this situation? Is there a point you need to learn here or change a habitual pattern? If you let go of the idea that things should be fair, how would you best direct the situation?

Here’s a video from Gian also on the subject of Fairness and how he realised that holding onto fairness only creates more suffering for all involved:

If you’re new to self-improvement and would like to learn more about how we tend to be our own worst enemies, rather than helpful guides – check out the free online DIP Lite Course

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