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How to Find Serenity in an Unfair World: The Path of Acceptance and Action

Part 3 of 5: Overcoming Unrealistic Expectations

Photo Credit: Allison Saeng

Fairness is one of my most important values. I really want things to be fair for people. At the same time, I get that the world is not fair.

What I’ve come to learn is that just because fairness is a value of mine, that doesn't mean I have to be pissed off when things aren’t fair. Just because I don’t agree with something doesn’t mean I have to be pissed off about it. I didn’t know that until I got into recovery. To me, 

Disagreement = pissed off

What that means is that I was allowing all kinds of situations that bothered me to steal my serenity. It’s like I was fighting against reality, as if this should be fair. And that may be so in an ideal world, things should be fair for everyone. But who gets to decide what’s “fair?” My definition of fairness is not the same as yours.

I’ve come to understand that a lot of difficulty in my life gets removed once I  accept things the way they are. I don't always have a conscious idea in my head about the way they should be. I’ve learned that resentment is a good indicator of when I'm not accepting something. That’s often an indicator that I have some kind of an expectation that things should be different.

One of the ways I handle this now is to say to myself, “THIS is what’s happening.” Sometimes, I repeat it several times to myself, especially if I feel my resistance building. I think of saying that as inserting myself into the reality of the situation so I can face what’s actually happening instead of resisting against it and wishing it were different.

If I allowed the unfairness of the world to steal my serenity, I’d never have peace. There is so much unfairness in the world! If fairness is a strong value of yours, instead of getting pissed off and resentful about it, take action. Work toward creating circumstances, situations, opportunities and structures that are fair. Support organizations that work toward your definition of fairness.

That’s a much better use of your time and energy than using it to rail against people, organizations or situations that are not fair. That's a potentially endless endeavor because there is so much about this world that is not fair. If you spend all of your time being upset about that, you won't have time for anything else!

Stop expecting things to be fair! Acceptance means understanding that you acknowledge and understand that there are lots of things that are unfair. Our social structures were not set up to be fair, they were set up by and for certain types of people which means they set them up to benefit people like them. Some of that was done knowingly, some of it was not. 

If we don't like that and we want things to be fair, it’s our job to do what we can to change those things, to create new systems that are fair (or at least that fit our definition of what is “fair”).

You can still hold onto fairness as being a really important value. It will help guide you to where you want to spend your time and energy. You might spend your time and energy with other people, organizations and causes that hold your definition of fairness as a value. You might spend time and money with organizations that work toward your definition of fairness. That doesn't mean that you have to be pissed off all the time because the world isn’t a fair place.

Instead of demanding fairness of the world, try to create fairness. Here are some quotes that might help with this mindset shift.

“Stop hoping to hear a good song and start singing one.”

“Be the change you wish to see in the world.”

“If the world is cold, make it your business to build fires.” ~ Horace Traubel


THEre is


I especially love this last one because the way it’s depicted says both “be the good” and “believe there is good.” It helps us understand that it’s easy to believe there is good if we are being the good. We're both creating the belief and the evidence for the belief by being the good.

You can continue to expect fairness and walk around being pissed off all the time, or you can accept that the world is unfair and take action. In other words, you can continue to expect fairness, but you’re going to suffer. That’s not on the world, it’s on you.

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