Posted by: counselorcarmella | April 3, 2014

Life Isn’t Fair. How Do We Deal With That? Part Two

There’s something very powerful in simply being able to say, “I am angry,” “I am upset,” “I am hurt,” “I am devastated.” How long do we stay with the feelings and the regrets and the details of what happened? That depends on each person and on how important each particular unfairness is to him or her. We can still be struggling towards being able to fully understand the situation and be experiencing tremendous pain or anger while also beginning to move towards the next part of this process. Because we can’t stop there. If we do, we’re going to get stuck in a really dark place of isolation and bitterness.

Acceptance. People have a real problem with that word, I think because they make assumptions about what it means. Acceptance doesn’t mean we’re totaly fine with, or happy about, what’s happened. What it does mean is recognizing that, as muchas we might want to, we can’t change certain things. We can’t change what’s already happened. We can’t go back and rewrite history. There are no time machines. That’s the reality of how the world works. Acceptance is saying, like it or not, I have to do what I can with what is and come to terms with wishing it had been different. I have to move beyond the past. I can’t stay stuck slamming my head into the wall of “not fair” and what can’t be changed. I have to look at what I can do now. How do I make meaning, find the good, learn from this, not be consumed by it.

This is the “even though.” I will still work hard, trust again, find moments of joy, not be bitter even though something I think is very unfair happened. I will do these things knowing life will be unfair to me again at some point. I’ll make the best decisions I can and do what I know I’m supposed to do anyway. I’ll do this because I have to, because its all I can do, because doing what’s right and healthy will help me, even if I don’t feel like it will.

It does no good to look at other people’s lives and try to decide if they’ve had more or less unfairness than we have. It may seem like some people’s lives are completely charmed. “Nothing bad ever happens to them.” Maybe that’s true for a few people, but not for most people. This life being unfair thing catches up with pretty much everyone at some point. None of us are immune to it. Besides, no one else’s journey is yours. Thinking about how life isn’t fair because that person always gets what they want and has the spouse, the kids, the job, the health you lost isn’t helping you one bit. Its just making you frustrated and indignant about something that isn’t really your business. You don’t know the whole story of anyone else’s life past, present, or future, and that’s between them and God anyway. Your job, with God’s grace and strength, is to walk your path and journey.

Also, for all the people you think have had it so much better you can also think of quite a few who have had horribly unfair things happen to them, things they didn’t want, need, or like. You’re not the only one. Unfair and tragic things happen every single day to so many people. Just watch your local news tonight to get a few examples just from today.

We can waste valuable time and energy fighting with reality or we can deal with it constructively. “I’m sad or even devastated” can be alongside “but there are also choices I have to make about what happens next.” We acknowledge that certain types of pain might always be part of our lives and learn to work with it, around it, through it. We ask ourselves what kind of person we still want to be despite the unfair things that have happened. “What do I still have?” is a really important question. We can focus on healthy actions we can take, changes we can make for the better, what is within our control, and opportunities that still exist for moving life forward. We may not do this because we want to at first. We do it because we have to.

We may feel unable to do this or have to admit we really don’t know how or where to begin. We seek guidance. We ask God to help us find the good, what we can learn, how to make sense of what’s happened, how to find a measure of peace, and what to do with the pain. We ask Him to lead and to bring us clarity and reassurance. Maybe we talk to others who have been through unfair things to see what has helped them. We draw strength and hope from them. We seek support and encouragement from those who love us and want to help. If we need to , we seek spiritual counsel or talk with a professional counselor or therapist. We read books about others who have overcome unfair situations, talk to them in support groups (online or in person), and draw on the wisdom of past experiences when we’ve been through something difficult.

We realize we can choose how we talk to ourselves about what’s happened and how we tell the story. We are honest but we seek to balance details of what we couldn’t control with information about what we can control. We decide if feeling things like anger or guilt makes sense or can serve a constructive purpose and what to do with those feelings. We put time and energy into relationships we still have and possibilities that may still exist so that something positive or meaningful might come from what happened. We don’t let the painful experience be wasted pain. Maybe we go back to school, work on getting physically healthy, honor someone we’ve lost by giving time or money to a particular cause, or connect with others who are also struggling with similar circumstances.

Acknowledge feelings and grieve, but don’t stay stuck there. Make the better choice no matter how hard it is. Don’t let what’s unfair cut you off from the rest of life and what it has to offer, no matter how much you’ve lost. The chance for good things to happen still exists. Sometimes, what’s unfair is the grace or the blessing we know we didn’t earn or deserve that is ours anyway, the happy surprise that comes our way out of nowhere, the second chance or new opportunity we might not have recognized before, the catastrophic thing that should have happened but didn’t.

Life can be unfair. That’s a reality. We can make choices about how to handle life’s unfairness. This is also a reality. May we somehow make our peace with both and still seek the good through the pain.

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