What Are Your Thoughts?
A Chinese philosopher said these words: “When you grow up, you’ll know the world is quite fair. . .” The words stunned me. I had to play back part of the drama I was watching to make sure I had heard correctly.
I had to make an effort to wrap my brain around that one.
For as long as I can remember, I have heard myself say, and those around me say, “One thing about life you learn is that life is not fair.” I had never, ever heard it said the other way around. I had to think about that switcheroo in writing the words opposite to what my thoughts were for so many years.
I’ve heard people complain that life isn’t fair, often in stark, bitter language, or be like me and accept with a smile that life isn’t fair and that you just have to take receipt of it and move on, embrace life — doing what you can to correct injustices.
My first big tailspin on this subject is happening now.
The part of the quote that caught my attention and made me question if I had been viewing my world from an incorrect perspective was the second sentence following it.
Let me write out the full quote for you:
“When you grow up, you’ll know the world is quite fair — nobody gets everything.” — An unnamed Chinese Philosopher.
So, all the time I’ve lived, life has been perfectly fair, and I just didn’t notice it?
What would be the great equalizer, then? While we are bemoaning our circumstances, has God created a world of fairness with everyone?
Let me give you an example of where my mind is going with this.
My brother works with a humanitarian non-profit organization in Africa. For many of us, we can point to some of the African countries as not having been played fair with. But I began thinking of some things my brother told me about the people. He says that despite difficult circumstances, their spirits are vibrant and grateful for what they have. He spoke of a disabled young child who does not have the use of his arms but can do so much with his tongue. He says it is amazing that this same young man always has the biggest smile on his face.
What if having wealth and the things you need is equaled by the type of strong character it would take to find happiness within the bleakest standards of living as judged by modern societies? These so-called wealthy cultures seem to struggle big time with being grateful and happy in their abundance. Is there an element of spiritual wealth that goes unseen in African culture because our focus is on wealth?
Don’t we have so much time on our hands to think about different things and expound philosophies within the context of our ease that it leads to confusion in our values and priorities and has people demanding more of others and less of themselves — hating while decrying the hatefulness of others?
With all the time and abundance we’ve been blessed with, it is many times never enough for us to finally embrace happiness that sits on the sidelines waiting for us to notice her.
What if fairness and unfairness, in reality, don’t exist in the same way we think they might? And because of the unseen and unknowns in people’s lives and the world, perceived unfairness can not be seen straight up or quantified with the limited information and discernment humans possess.
What if unfairness, with its unseen parts, exists for humans at its best as an opportunity to work for better solutions that embrace all people and expound love?
I think there might be something here — a big takeaway, perhaps.
Have I and others accurately conceived of or understood the intricacies and not-so-apparent pieces of what makes something fair?
I’m sure somebody could attempt to point out some glaringly disproportionate, seemingly inescapable unfairness by comparing two things that rival the stark contrast of day and night — when put together — and scream of unfairness. But I’m wondering if we knew what the person gained in character and spirit from that, on the surface, completely unfair experience and then compared it to someone who perhaps lived their lives at ease in prosperity, called upon to make barely a modicum of sacrifice during their lives — what might be the story if we saw it all played out before our eyes?
True, true, not everyone might gain from tribulation and soul-stretching experiences, but couldn’t that be their choice? Are we not free to choose our thoughts and our feelings?
People who look at Nelson Mandela and his life might say how disturbingly unfair it is that he spent 27 years in prison. They could put their focus on that one aspect of his life. A massive amount of his life was taken from him. But how many people have built up such a character, going through such a refiner’s fire?
“Prison is itself a tremendous education in the need for patience and perseverance. It is, above all, a test of one’s commitment. . .” — Nelson Mandela.
“Prison — far from breaking our spirits — made us more determined to continue with this battle until victory was won.” — Nelson Mandela
The character of an influential man emerged from substantial hardship. A man who could lead a people with power, clarity, and committed purpose toward freedom and stand at the head of a nation.
His story was key to who he became as a man. And that man he became would more than equal or remove any unfair aspect, right?
Who we become is the legacy we leave behind for the world. Leaving behind an exceptional character that is remembered is a gift.
I’m believing that God might have just given us a fair world, and I just hadn’t grown up enough to notice. The last part of the quote is, in point of fact, true: Nobody in life gets everything. Doesn’t it just balance out to produce fairness for everyone?
Who would think God would plan an unfair world? Maybe the world is completely and perfectly fair, and many of the people in Africa will die with some of the things of most value, the things you can take with you when you leave earth — your character and a wealth of happiness.
And the poverty of mind and spirit found with greater frequency perhaps in the modern world will have us dying in our confusion as to what matters the most, along with our underdeveloped spirits and characters, and going into the next world — wondering how happiness eluded us — crying about the “unfairness” of life, bitter, and blaming others for the hate in our hearts.
What you do with what you’ve got matters. Perhaps fairness is found all around us, and we choose our narrative of what we see by how we live.
God could have set a fair world for everyone to grow and learn in. Each of His children has different circumstances, weaknesses, and strengths to grow from.
A fair, symbiotic relationship between people is described in the Bible. Humanity is one body; all body parts are needed for the body to be whole. Each part of the body is different but needed, needing to work together for the optimal function of the body.
Great men and women arose to claim greatness at difficult times in history, appearing at times of tremendous inequity and when many would say “unfairness” existed. These extraordinarily talented and blessed individuals stretched themselves beyond their natural capacities in revealing the gifts God compensated them with.
Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, and all those who fought peacefully for their existence as equals were given unparalleled strength and courage. They were heroes who stood out for the way they handled themselves against hatred and violence.
Martin Luther King, Jr., in his inspired speech, “I Have a Dream,” outlined the conditions they found themselves in — never once telling their oppressors what they had to do about it or the things they demanded they do, but rather talked about what he and his supporters who had the dream were going to do about the situation and their dream.
They took control and responsibility for their dream and worked tirelessly for it — in the end, spreading their dream across America. They didn’t sit down in the middle of unfairness and demand that others change.
With their claims of injustice, they first changed themselves, their thoughts, and their actions — inviting all Americans to dream the dream — thereby inspiring change that swept across America.
“In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.” — Martin Luther King Jr. in “I Have a Dream”
The I Have a Dream speech was full of what they would do and how they saw things. It overflowed with imagery inspiring hope, action, and change within their communities. When it stepped out of the bounds of their own communities to include others, it was magnificently inclusive of their oppressors, speaking of joining hands with them and brotherhood.
It was an instructive and awe-inspiring speech that taught one how to rise first and be that which you desire others to be toward you.
The people of the civil rights movement towered over their oppressors in character. There was nothing left to be done than for those oppressive times to crumble under the weight of the majesty of the people who ushered in a new era of major growth toward equality and freedom.
Their story is emblazoned on the history of the United States.
How powerful they became, going against humankind’s natural instinct to fight hate with hate. Together, despite all the evil inflicted on them, they wielded a sword of truth for that which was rightfully theirs — talking a path and walking a path of love.
If we are busy hating our haters while crying unfair, unfair, do we have the right to demand they stop hating? Can we, in fact, control and demand people’s thoughts change anyway? We can, however, inspire through our characters, our lives, our actions, and our abilities to love and show tolerance and acceptance for everyone.
We can push forward and share our vision of fairness if how we live is inspiring, inclusive, and full of love.
If we are to have hope of changing our perceived unfairness, it would be to change ourselves for an example of what fair looks like first.
There are the people on Flight 93 who fought the terrorists and sacrificed their lives to save the people below in the United States Capital Building on a day when they moved into history — stretching beyond circumstances that defined their characters.
Who are the beaten down and living amongst “unfairness” — the souls who transcend their circumstances to shine brightly or those mired in their prison of unfairness demanding others to be fair? “Unfairness” may well just be an accepted condition or state of being you can wallow in or rise from. Needing help to rise is no less valiant because you have positioned yourself in a place and mindset to acquire and accept the means to rise.
Maybe times of “unfairness” are times to build character and rise to the priceless value and worth placed within each of God’s children. Some take on the challenge to achieve refinement of their souls through the turbulence of life. While others place themselves in the middle of the word unfairness and stay there looking out at the unfairness of it all.
Maybe a real test isn’t learning to live and grow in “unfair” circumstances but finding out how fair things are by discovering and bending a perceived unfairness into the metal of one’s character and actions –
Using love against hate, generosity against smallness, and nobility against vulgarity in response — valiantly fighting with the heart of the mighty for what we know to be right and good.
Nobody has everything, and everybody has been given their own set of strengths and weaknesses to wield for the good in life.
Each has been given divine gifts and talents to become the best version of ourselves and aid each other on this life journey in whatever circumstances we find ourselves in.
When we grow up, will we find that life is quite fair because nobody gets everything?
I think I’m growing up and seeing life is more fair than I ever had imagined.