“It’s not fair!”
Kids everywhere yell it out loud, while adults still think it even if they don’t say it. The usual response of “Life isn’t fair” is one that even kids instinctively understand to be a cop out. It restates the obvious fact, which they just pointed out, and then leaves them stranded. It doesn’t help deal with angry feelings or resolve them.
It is a fact of life that sometimes other people do or say things that hurt us. It’s happened to us all. Nobody in the history of the human race has escaped feelings of hurt or anger. The details of how, who, when where, why, are all variables that make up our own unique personal stories, but the summary is always the same.
When something happens that lead us to feel put upon, or victimized, it causes anger and resentment. If a date or a friend stands us up, we may feel slighted, disrespected, unimportant or disappointed. Like a magnet, our anger begins pulling all sorts of similar anger-inducing memories and thoughts. The longer we allow them to pile on, the more massive the ball of anger becomes, and the greater its gravitational pull. The bigger it gets, the more it isolated us in a sea of negativity.
We think about how we have the right to be angry, because they had no right to make plans and then never show. Then our mind goes to find all the other times they have been wrong or done things unfairly to hurt us. We search and analyze until we find a definite pattern and trail of their misdeeds. Eventually, the mere sight of them only triggers those hurtful, angry memories, and we begin to expect to find those characteristics in other people as well. Constant ruminating leaves little room to think of anything else, and sends us into bad moods for days at a time.
“What else bad can happen to me?”
Traffic, lines at the store, and slow people at work don’t mix with our lack of patience. Every minor irritant becomes evidence of how the world is against us for no reason, and it’s unfair. Maybe we don’t notice our grumpiness and short temper toward the other people with which we come into contact, or maybe we feel justified in our mood because we have been so wronged and life is not fair.
I’m not going to argue about whether or not you should feel let down, angry, put upon or victimized by the actions of the other person. In fact, I’m going to take your side and agree with you that yes, what they did was shitty and they have no real excuse. The jury is in, and they say the other person was wrong and you are right. The results have been posted on each and every news outlet in the country. 300 million people have heard the story, and they all agree with you.
So… now what?
Does this at all change how you feel? Life still isn’t fair. The past is still the past. And that’s just it. No matter how we react in this moment, whether we rage or not, nothing will change what happened. Not last year, last week or last minute. Not ever. It is what it is.
Imagine if you came across a white-haired, elderly man in a complete rage, furiously yelling to anyone in earshot about how his wife not only cheated on him, but also left him for someone else in 1946. One look at him tells you he has spent the last 68 years of his life miserable and reliving that single event. Notice that the reason you feel sorry for him is not that his wife left, but that he chose not to seek happiness for the rest of his life.
The real cost of anger is happiness.
It’s never about the other person. It’s about you, and how you want to live your life.
Would you rather fill your every waking moment with all the unfair and negative stories of your past, or would you rather let go of anger and yesterday’s news in order to be happy today?
At the end of every day we all must choose between happiness and misery, because both good and bad things will always happen. Regardless of what goes on in our lives, or in the lives of the people with whom we interact, it is only WE who have the power to make that decision for ourselves.