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The Invention Of Fairness (& our life long obsession with it)

Updated: Mar 18, 2021

We don’t stop saying “it’s not fair“ when we become adults... in fact, like all compounded thoughts and behaviours, the more we say it, the more it simply becomes a belief, an “automatic“ response, without any thought at all.

So where did it all begin? Well it all seemed very innocuous at the time, but on reflection, some of the most well-worn & universal comments we hear in childhood simply started the ball rolling for a constant subliminal quest for “fairness” that could never be met. Why?

Because. It. Doesn’t. Exist.

”If you don’t behave, Santa won’t come”

”If you don’t eat your greens, you can’t have pudding”

”If you don’t play nicely, you can’t have friends over”

How did we miss the connection between these casually cast about statements and the fundamentally flawed “lesson” we learned, that if we do good things we can expect good outcomes, and if we do bad things we can expect bad outcomes?

Ok, confession time...When was the last time you said (or thought) “that’s sooo unfair”? Or perhaps responded to a teenager, pupil, friend or little one‘s moans of unfairness with a glib shrug of the shoulders whilst casually stating the obvious “Life’s not fair”...? Yup, we know it, right? But somehow, the concept of fairness is so engendered from a young age that we continue to think and feel in a way that that implies we have no awareness at all.

* We‘ve seen people in power take unfair advantage of their position * We’ve watched beautiful, kind people struck down with misfortune or illness * We’ve watched impotently as colleagues are rewarded or promoted without merit

* We’ve given our all to a friendship or relationship, only to be hurt and let down...

and yet, we STILL seek fairness - as elusive as Santa himself!

This embedded lesson around doing good = good outcome/ doing bad = bad outcome, has the capacity to negatively effect other thought process and patterns in our lives too. Let me give you an example or two.

~ Ever caught yourself justifying why you’re taking that long weekend with something like

“I haven't had a day off in 5 months!“. Have you considered that perhaps we do this to clarify we’ve done enough good to have earned the positive outcome?

~ Maybe your gut reaction to a friend or colleague’s bad mood is “I wonder if it’s something I’ve said or done“. There’s a bad outcome, therefore we’re assuming we may have done something bad to cause it.

It‘s kind of extraordinary when you start to think about just how tied our thought processes are to this concept of fairness and good and bad, despite all the evidence to the contrary! However, most of us would likely consider ourselves advocates of justice (righteous, lawful, equitable), so our desire for fairness is a natural one.

Now, I’m not for a moment suggesting we should start encouraging negative or selfish behaviour, just that we all tend to play a part in perpetuatping the illusion of “fairness” from generation to generation.

When we put “good“ out there; good effort, vibes, thoughts, behaviours, we often generate good results. So, whilst there may be no guarantee of a good or “fair“ outcome, “doing good” simply brings greater joy and positivity to your world and the lives of others.... seems like the best reason of all :-).

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