We Don’t Really Want Fairness

Everyone has heard “Life is not fair.”

But still we want it to be.

Or do we?

Do we really want to be caught every time we speed, tell a little lie, or gossip?

Do we want our earning power and quality of life to be reduced to that of those in Third World countries?

Do we want to suffer equally with those who have chronic degenerative diseases or grotesque deformities?

Do we want the same life as those 20-30 million sex slaves trafficked worldwide?

Isn’t it interesting that when we want things to be more “fair” we generally only consider those who are better off, not those who would trade places with us in an instant?

And would we really want to watch the Olympics if the athletes were not more gifted than we are?

Think about all the ways that you’re glad life is not fair. It will make you feel a lot more grateful than the advertisers, special interest groups, politicians, and others selling their “rescues” want you to feel.

We are incredibly blessed. Be glad in that.

What It Takes

I get it.

This website’s posts are not the warm-fuzzies that people usually share to get “Likes,” hearts, or thumbs-up. The posts, although non-political and from a positive perspective,  sometimes deal with topics that are not (so-called) “politically correct” and are maybe not the stuff of “polite conversation.”

The subjects and even the name, Not A Victim, feel a little edgy … a little unsafe.

That’s intentional because anything with reformative value is never safe.

The victim mentality is a little uncomfortable to talk about because we don’t want to “stir the pot” or risk upsetting people we like. But we all know the victim mentality exists, is problematic, and we talk about “victims” after making sure no one is near who might be offended.

It’s risky to discuss topics with genuine social impact. But I’m willing to take that risk to share a perspective that’s come as an unexpected gift resulting from a situation I thought would make me miserable.

To me, the risk is worth enduring in order to raise awareness and stoke public discussion to stem the tide of pervasive victim mentality because I see how ruinous the victim mentality is, and how it cheats people out of happier, more fulfilling lives. But we also know that no one believes they have the victim mentality and most do not respond well to a suggestion that they might.

It will take some time to get people on board, talking about Not A Victim and spreading the word that the victim mentality cannot be countenanced.

In the meantime, I sincerely hope that the perspectives you read here will enrich and inform your life and the lives of people you care about so that the victim mentality is more readily recognized and it’s is neither enabled nor embraced.

I Sleep Like a Baby

I sleep like a baby.

No, that doesn’t mean I wake up every few hours crying for milk. It means that I can fall asleep quickly and regularly stay asleep until rested. By the way, I consider that an uncommon blessing for which I’m very thankful.

Maybe I sleep so well because I have a clear conscience. I know, you may be laughing at the thought of a lawyer with a clear conscience but it’s true.

More importantly, though, I think my ability to sleep so soundly comes from two interrelated things: lack of worry, and gratitude.

Again, you may be skeptical that a guy with near full-body paralysis is not chronically worried but it’s true. I always seem to “land on my feet,” so to speak. And sometimes I don’t worry about things that maybe I should.

Maybe I don’t worry because I thought I was dead when I broke my neck and every problem since then seems trivial by comparison. Or maybe some of why I don’t worry is that whole clear conscience thing – if we live with integrity we don’t ever have to worry about being exposed. But I think the biggest reason I don’t worry comes from my faith.

When I thought I was dying, I fully expected that I would be going to heaven and would meet my Maker. At that moment, nothing else mattered and I was overcome by an incredible sense of calm and tranquility. Since then, my remaining time on this planet seems like “gravy” and I’m just happy to have a second chance.

Moreover, I’ve learned how fortunate I truly am. In learning how to overcome what was previously my worst nightmare, I’ve learned how to focus on the many good things in life, not the few bad things.

One of the tricks I learned is to say a prayer of thanks and list everything for which I’m grateful. It helps to think of an exhaustive list of things and circumstances I’m both glad I do have and glad I don’t. Then it makes things that much more impactful to imagine what life would be like if tomorrow I didn’t have what I was thankful for (another way of thinking is to image that if it’s not in the gratitude prayer list it could be gone the next day). When I start to feel that life is not “fair” for me or it’s not as good as I’d expected, I make myself go through this exercise. It works wonders.

Try it sometime in bed just before you go to sleep. Start with giving thanks for the bed you’re in, the roof over your head in a free country, and the fact that you can think clearly. That will get you started.

 

 

“Social Justice”

Lately, we read a lot about “social justice.” We even hear of people calling themselves “social justice warriors.”

“Justice” has traditionally meant preventing the infringement of people’s rights. Inhibiting, usually through the promise of punishment, crimes against persons or their property.

“Social Justice,” on the other hand, seems to be a striving for “fairness” (see That’s Fair) through redistribution and other social engineering by the people in charge.

We’ve seen throughout history that the perhaps well-intended attempts to make everyone (born with different brains, bodies, looks, and abilities) equal in terms of possessions, wealth, or standards of living have failed miserably and have often resulted in massive corruption and even genocide. The United States of America, although not perfect, is a great example of what actual justice can accomplish. Ensuring that everyone starts the same (equality in terms of the law, no nobility or castes) results in far more freedom, happiness, advances, and success than trying to ensure that everyone finishes the same.

It may feel good to want everyone to end up with equal portions and equal stations in life, but history has shown that it simply does not work. So the focus on “social justice” seems to be highlighting the inherent unfairness in our imperfect world and instilling an idea that the world or society owes us something (to make it more fair).

While “social justice warriors” likely feel they are helping people, these kindhearted efforts can contribute to the victim mentality by promoting obsession with fairness (in a world that will never be fair because we all have different characteristics), and by blaming other people for the world’s inherent unfairness (fostering discouragement, disappointment, and providing excuses).

The remedy is “freedom warriors.” If, instead of championing unobtainable goals, people were to champion more freedom for people to do whatever they want so long as it doesn’t infringe on others’ rights, there would be more happiness, and fewer “victims.”

Not Offended

These days it seems people get “offended” a lot more easily and a lot more often (there is, by the way, a difference between getting ‘mad’ and getting ‘offended’).

People get “offended” for three reasons (some or all may contribute):

  1. We are reminded of something we know is true but don’t like to think about.

[examples: we are wrong, overweight, in the minority, or not as pretty, smart, or accomplished]

  1. We hear something that is not true about ourselves or someone we care about.

[examples: being called a cheater, a liar, a racist, a homophobe, etc.]

  1. We want to control people by passive-aggressive means, playing on their kindness.

[examples: being offended by truths, unpleasant history, or so-called “political incorrectness”]

Years ago, I decided to never be “offended.” If someone reminds me of some truth that’s unpleasant, I should already be aware of it and either be making strides to change it or have already come to terms with it. If I haven’t and the truth stings, the person has actually done me a favor.

If someone is spreading falsehoods about me, I feel confident that I live in such a way that people who know me or my reputation will know that the falsehoods are lies. And that reflects back on the person spreading falsehoods.

The world has become hypersensitive and it’s getting more so. It used to be the norm was summarized by the kids’ verse, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me.” Sadly, we’ve gotten away from that wise standard.

It’s not good to be insensitive to the plights of others, but somehow, large swaths of our culture have come to value thin skin and folks who are easily wounded (see Woundedness). I have chosen not to participate in that ruinous trend.

The decision to never be offended has served be well in not being a victim. And it is a choice that anyone can make.

Woundedness

We all feel emotionally wounded at times. It’s hard but it’s a normal part of life.

And we all deal with grief and woundedness in different ways. There is no one “right way” or “best way” to handle emotional pain.

We humans like attention (some more than others). And we feel compelled (again, some more than others) to care for people we love who are hurting.

When we experience some tragedy or adversity, the comforting we receive from others feels good. It helps us realize our pain is not uncommon, that we’re not alone, and that others care about us.

Sometimes that attention from others can get addicting. Like any “pain reliever,” too much or chronic comforting from others is not healthy. It can cause us to hang on to the hurt in order to retain the comfort. It’s not logical, but we are creatures driven by emotion (once again, some more than others).

Woundedness, displayed for others to see, can also provide a means for getting people to act or not act in certain ways.

Control is another thing we humans like (some more than others). When we seek control, beyond our own lives, for the sake of power or when we sacrifice integrity to control others, it’s also not healthy.

Think of those who manipulate others through passive-aggressive means. People who hang on to their emotional pain in order to prolong the sympathy and attention from others, or who hang on to their pain to control others are finding comfort in their woundedness.

Taking comfort in woundedness is the fourth component of victimism. It is neither healthy nor fair. There are other ways of taking comfort in woundedness but taking comfort in woundedness is never good long term. It’s a sure sign of at least some victim mentality.

How can you recognize people taking comfort in woundedness? Are you promoting or enabling it? Think how much healthier and happier people can be without the victim mentality.

DON’T DO IT TO YOURSELF

If someone is obsessed with “fairness,” do you suppose they want more of something in which they take pleasure, or less? If someone wants more and finds it “unfair” that others have more, is there a clearer example of “envy?”

 

“Envy is the art of counting the other fellow’s blessings instead of your own.”

—Harold Coffin

 

“Envy blinds men and makes it impossible for them to think clearly.”

—Malcom X

 

“Envy is an insult to oneself.”

—Yevgeny Yevtushenko

 

“Never underestimate the power of jealousy and the power of envy to destroy.”

—Oliver Stone

 

“The spirit of envy can destroy; it can never build.”

—Margaret Thatcher

 

“Probably the greatest harm done by vast wealth is the harm that we of moderate means do ourselves when we let the vices of envy and hatred enter deep into our own natures.”

—Theodore Roosevelt

 

“Beg of God the removal of envy, that God may deliver you from externals, and bestow upon you an inward occupation, which will absorb you so that your attention is not drawn away.”

—Rumi

 

“Of the seven deadly sins, only envy is no fun at all.”

—Joseph Epstein

 

Fighting On

happy peopleSadly, I’ve known several people who’ve taken their own lives. When I broke my neck and was paralyzed, I too wanted to end it all. I didn’t want to live anymore. Even though it was my own fault (see Not Blaming), I felt like a victim.

That has been part of my motivation for starting this website. If we can share something here that helps people cope with their indescribable pain and if we can prevent even one person from feeling that ultimate hopelessness from whatever adversity they face, then it will all have been worth it.

It helped me to consider our time on this planet in the grand scheme of things. If we believe in eternal life (which I do), our time on Earth, in these earthly bodies, even if we live to be 100, is a mere blink of an eye.

Suffering through an injury, a disease, or something as excruciating as childbirth, is a lot more bearable when we know it will eventually be over (mothers even “sign up” for multiple pregnancies and deliveries). Similarly, even the most difficult chronic circumstances in this life can be endured when we consider they won’t last forever. As my pastor often says, “The worst thing is never the last.”

It also helped to consider the multitude of others who are worse off. Yes, paralysis was my worst nightmare as rugby-playing, single man, dating “profusely” in college. But I soon realized it could have been a lot worse than just breaking my neck.

We humans are wired to be fairly self-focused (for survival), so it takes effort to look beyond our own lives and our own interests – especially when we feel like a victim. But eventually forcing myself to think of others who were enduring greater adversity (those with Spina Bifda, Multiple Sclerosis, Cerebral Palsy, Cystic Fibrosis, Muscular Dystrophy, Downs Syndrome, Cancer, some terminal disease, or any of a host of other awful conditions) prompted me to find a way to fight through my grief.

In time, the unbearable pain and sadness that came from being paralyzed dissipated and I found surprising happiness in my “new” body. It took finding new perspectives and it took work to get there, but I’m immensely glad I chose to go on. I’m happier now than before I broke my neck.

What things can you offer someone who may have lost hope to help them see past their adversity to help them fight through? Please share in the Comments below.

Not Blaming

The third component of “victimism” is Blaming.

Chicken Soup for the Soul author, Jack Canfield, writes about taking 100% responsibility for our lives. But we easily fall into the habit of blaming other people or circumstances for our frustrations, disappointments, and failures. I was a “repeat offender” of that coping mechanism until I decided that it not only wasn’t helping me but it was actually limiting my growth, my development, and my long-term happiness.

I would blame not finding the right woman (until recently) on my paralysis, I would blame physical issues on people who didn’t listen or weren’t looking out for my interests (people who dropped me or a surgeon who debrided the wrong tissue), and I would blame not finishing at the top of my law school class on professors who didn’t explain they wanted analysis of every possible answer, not just the best answer, in essay exams.

Then I began to actively look for ways to take 100% responsibility. I began to realize it was my own fault for not seeking out law school final exam guidance because I felt confident (perhaps overly so) that I knew the material inside out. It was my own fault for not communicating more clearly in ways that other people learn best (not just the way I learn best), and it was my own fault that I was paralyzed and in my situation (because I made some bad decisions).

It is sometimes very hard to dig deep and find my own choices that led to my frustrations.  It’s not easy to stop blaming others … to take 100% responsibility. But it gets easier with practice and, trust me, it is absolutely worth every difficult step of peeling away the rationalizations that make up the narratives we tell ourselves to support our perspectives.

Where can you take responsibility for things you’d rather blame on others?

Excuse Me

When we give excuses to others for our actions or inactions we make excuses for ourselves to act in ways we know are not good for us or others.

When we see ourselves as “victims” we give ourselves perpetual excuses.

When we treat others as “victims” we make excuses for them and we do them no favors.