Life is not fair.
There, I said it…Life is not fair. And if you expect it to be, you are guaranteed to be disappointed.
People and entities created by people, like governments and societies, corporations and churches, families and social organizations, have the ability to be fair. They can choose to treat people fairly or unfairly but outside of those things that humans create, fair simply does not exist.
It is the fundamental unfairness of life that explains the occurrence of such things as birth defects, genetic anomalies, weather phenomenon, illness, infertility, avalanches, and a host of other things that “just happen.” Life is not fair and we are not entitled to fairness, either.
But there are things in life in which we do have a legitimate expectations of such as our treatment at the hands of others. In such things as school and work and the law, in how we are treated by other people and the constructs of those people like corporations and governments, we have a legitimate expectation of being treated justly…we are entitled to a “fair shake.” This has repeatedly been upheld in the courts in the form of cash awards to people who can prove they were treated unfairly. Unfortunately, however, the popular perception of these awards is for people to somehow transform this legal entitlement into a belief that they are just as entitled to fairness and justice in all facets of their lives. And nothing could be further from the truth.
Even if it was the truth, from whom are you going to seek redress when you find yourself infertile, when a loved one gets cancer, when a meteorite crashes through your roof and sets your house afire? Life is not fair and until we internalize that fact, we are going to be continuously and constantly dissatisfied and resentful about our lives.
In no place is this more evident than when a person has been victimized by another. In particular, there are many of us who grew up in grossly unfair households in which we were the fall guy, the scapegoat, for everything that went wrong. To protect ourselves we developed numerous coping mechanisms that served us in childhood but which, as adults, may hinder us. I cannot count the numbers of people I have come across who continue to live unhappy, dysfunctional lives, lives that are suspended while they wait for their dysfunctional family members to acknowledge their perfidy and apologize so that they can get on with their lives. If you are one of these people, I am sorry to tell you, it ain’t gonna happen.
You may think that your abusers have an obligation to acknowledge their wrongdoing and your healing cannot take place until that happens, but you would be wrong. They may have a social or moral obligation to acknowledge their wrong doing, but that doesn’t mean they will honour it. And you have no obligation…nor any reason…to hold your healing in abeyance while you wait for them to wake up and accept responsibility for the pain they caused you.
You see, you have an obligation to yourself and that obligation comes before anyone else’s obligations to you. You can acknowledge the inherent unfairness of the universe, you can acknowledge the specific unfairness of your dysfunctional family, but neither of them hold back your healing. Only you do that.
It’s not fair that your parents treated you badly and you are unhappy, you are in emotional pain, you are dysfunctional yourself, as a result. And it is not fair that you have to do all of the hard work to repair the damage they did to you so that you can have a happy, satisfying life. But much of the work of living is unfair: does everybody in your house do his own cooking and laundry? Does everybody in your house clean and take out the trash and shop for necessities, all without being told or reminded? Does everybody do exactly his fair share and not expect services from the others?
Sometimes what is fair for one person is unfair for another: how fair is it that you want sex and your partner denies you? Or vice versa? If you go through life weighing everything and deciding that your participation in your own life must be put on hold until everybody in it treats you fairly, you will get nowhere.
How do you define fair, after all? It is subjective and if you don’t believe me, ask a narcissist to describe fair to you. I once accused my narcissistic ex husband of being unwilling to compromise and he was outraged…he was absolutely adamant that he compromised all of the time. When I asked him to define “compromise,” he said “I get what I want and you get everything left.” And he was dead serious. What your narcissistic mother thinks is fair is most assuredly light years away from what you think is fair. Not only that, all of the flying monkeys are going to put their own twist on the definition of “fair,” as well. So how are you and all—or any—of the Ns in your life ever going to come to a middle ground in which they take responsibility for their behaviour and thereby open the door to healing for you?
Furthermore, why should you hold your own healing hostage to the behaviour of a narcissist or other abuser? Because it isn’t fair that she caused you all this pain and you should have to fix it? Have you even given consideration to what she could do that would actually remove your pain, your dysfunctional responses, your memories of being hurt and betrayed over and over again? Even if your narcissist got down on her knees and apologized and begged your forgiveness, would you be healed and whole when she stood up again? Of course not.
Life isn’t fair. Sometimes you get stuck cleaning up messes you had no part if making and that is just the way life is. You didn’t ask for Superstorm Sandy or 48 inches of snow in one day…you didn’t do anything wrong to deserve them, either. But they came and they negatively impacted the lives of people who had done nothing to deserve the devastation, and guess who had to do the clean up? The innocent, undeserving victims, of course.
And so it is with us and the mess our narcissists created in our psyches. It isn’t fair that they can make such a hash of our lives and we have to clean it up, but there you have it…you are the one with the broken bits and you are the only one who can fix them. Oh, you can get help and guidance from a therapist, books, groups, loving husbands and empathetic friends, but in the final analysis, the clean up, the repairs, the refurbishing…it’s all on you. And the sooner you stop waiting for the impossible to happen—your Ns grow a conscience, apologize, and you are magically healed—the sooner your ordeal will be over.
It’s your life, your happiness, your sense of self that it on the line, and the job of fixing it is all yours.