A few days ago, I was whining about my life. I felt that I wasn’t where I deserved to be. “Life is so unfair.” Then my friend who was on the listening end of my whining asked me: “What makes you think you deserve to be anywhere?” “Because I am hardworking and passionate, honest and generally a good person.”
The next question was: “Did you always think that life is unfair?” “No. Life was really good and simple when I was young.”
Of course life is good and simple, you are young. That’s because the rules are quite simple. Good guys get rewarded and bad guys always get what is coming to them. You see that in movies and in real life. You are patted on the back when you do well and you get punished when you go astray.
So you grow up thinking that if you do well, the world will be your oyster. Kindness will be rewarded with kindness. Love will be rewarded with love. Hard work will lead to success. You grow up thinking that life is fair.
And then you fall in love with a girl but no matter what you do, she won’t let you out of the ‘friend-zone’. The first boy you love treats you like a doormat. You get hurt and disappointed. And you curl yourself up into inconsolable depression.
Why do you feel that way? Is it because you are surprised that a human being, who is genetically wired to do bad things, has actually done them? Certainly not. You are only disappointed because you are wired to feel that if you are good to someone, you are entitled to their love.
But love doesn’t work like that. It does not come to you because you deserve it. It is not a trophy that you can win. Love, when it comes, does so on its own terms.
Even when it comes to things that can be acquired as a result of hard work, there is still no guarantee. You could prepare for a job all your life and still get outcompeted. In that moment, you will be furious at the unfairness of the universe.
But your reaction has nothing to do with the universe and everything to do with your personal emotions. Because while you feel beaten down, the person who has got the job feels that the universe is their friend.
If you eat healthy food you’ll probably live a long, disease-free life. Probably. There is also a chance that you will die of something that has nothing to do with your lifestyle.
The ‘fairness’ of life is just a construction of our own minds. Granted, the expectation of reward is a great motivator for doing good things. But rewards are not always guaranteed.
It doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t work hard or fall in love or do good things. But if we do all these things with the expectation that our efforts will be rewarded, we are just setting ourselves up for disappointment. And the sooner we learn that, the sooner we can start to become happier people.