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How to Deal with Unfairness and Change the Things You Can

“If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change the way you think about it.” ~Mary Engelbreit

Many times in the past, I’ve complained that things weren’t fair.

Sometimes, I was legitimately wronged—like when I was a kid and an adult in my life regularly told people lies about me, seemingly to justify her disdain and mistreatment.

Other times, I victimized myself to avoid taking responsibility—like when I didn’t prepare well and bombed at a community theater audition, but attributed my failure to favoritism.

As an indignant adolescent, I blamed many of my difficult early experiences for the perpetual chip on my shoulder. I bemoaned the injustices of the world because I felt so many befell me.

It wasn’t my fault that I was angry all the time; there was just a lot to be bitter about. At least that’s what I thought back then.

One day, when I was commiserating with a friend who was upset about a seemingly unfair situation in her life, I wondered: What good does this do us?

Grumbling about injustice doesn’t make things just—and the ensuing hostility doesn’t help us effectively address things that need fixing.

You can’t create positive change from a negative mindset.  You have to heal your pain before you can set out to heal the world. And you have to stop seeing yourself as a victim if you want to access your personal power.

Still, despite knowing this and making a conscious effort to change, I still feel an instinctively strong and irate response to perceived unfairness at times.

If a friend gets passed over for a promotion because it went to the boss’ daughter, I feel outraged for that friend.

If I see someone hit a parked car and speed away, I seriously consider following them and issuing a citizen’s arrest.

If I believe someone is earning boatloads of money unethically, I ruminate on how it’s not right, and wish I could do something to stop it.

I think it’s wrong when someone cuts in line; it’s wrong when someone bucks a system; it’s wrong when systems don’t do what they’re supposed to—the list goes on and on.

I’m learning to understand my strong emotional response so that I can challenge the feelings and thoughts that disempower me. If you’d like to do the same, you may find this post helpful.

Our Biological Response to Unfairness

While we all learned about fairness in childhood, scientists have proven we’re actually hardwired for it.

Studies have shown that the reward centers of our brains activate when we recognize fairness—even when it pertains to someone else. When we witness unfairness, it triggers our amygdala, the primitive part of the brain that controls fear and anger.

This means that when we feel like we’ve been treated unfairly, we go into “fight or flight” mode, with its resulting sense of anxiety.

Psychologists suggest that when we fight for fairness for others, it’s actually self-interest in disguise; meaning we’ve recognized it provides us with some type of advantage to be fair.

No matter how you slice it, we experience a strong, instant physical and biological reaction to perceived injustices, and this can limit our ability to think rationally and respond proactively.

Life Isn’t Always Fair

Every day, we have abundant opportunity to recognize injustice, on scales large and small, in our own lives and the lives of people we love.

You could find out you make less than someone else in the same job. You could lose a promotion to someone else who is far less qualified. You could lose a court case when it feels obvious someone else was in the wrong.

You could discover that a friend of yours is losing her savings because her accountant mismanaged her money. You could learn that someone you trusted to care for your mother took advantage of her good nature. You can find out that your sister’s losing her home because of predatory lending.

And this doesn’t even touch upon the massive injustices happening all over the world, far outside the scope of our everyday experience.

Life isn’t always fair. Whether it’s self-preservation, basic human decency, or a combination of both, we want to change that.

In some cases, we can. We are not powerless, and we don’t have to simply accept every injustice as an unavoidable part of life.

We do, however, need to accept that our response to perceived wrongs affects our ability to right them.

Dealing with Unfairness

Those people who don’t let unfairness make them bitter aren’t somehow better than others.

They aren’t necessarily people who haven’t experienced severe injustice or inequality; and they also aren’t people who simply accept whatever happens without ever taking a stand.

The people who handle unfairness well possess three things in common:

  • They catch their emotional response before it leads to obsessive thinking
  • They think rationally before they act
  • They recognize the difference between what they can control and what they can’t

Stopping Obsessive Thinking 

Dwelling on unfairness doesn’t do anything to change it; it actually affects our ability to do that since obsessive thinking drains our energy, magnifies our emotions, and keeps us more focused on problems than solutions.

This has been the biggest challenge for me, as I’ve found it almost satisfying at times to think about things that seem wrong—as if this is productive.

If you struggle with this as well, recognize when you start fixating on blaming thoughts, and visualize a stop sign in your head. Then repeat an affirmation along the lines of, “This isn’t productive. It is what it is, and I can either accept it or try to change it.”

Thinking Rationally Before Acting

In order to think rationally, we need to recognize that our biological reaction is just that, and consciously choose not to let it dictate our actions.

According to psychologist and author Marcia Reynolds, when we feel slighted or cheated, and react emotionally, we then use our logical brain to rationalize that response. For example, we may tell ourselves, “I snapped, but he deserved it!”

We can be far more effective if we use our logical brain first, before we do something we’ll later regret.

In some cases, when we think rationally, we may realize an unfair situation is not a big deal in the grand scheme of things—when someone cuts us off and runs a red light, for example.

It’s annoying, but is it really worth fuming during a car ride that could otherwise be pleasant?

Other times we’ll still feel strongly that we need to fight for justice—but this doesn’t require us to act with aggression. It requires calm, careful planning and acting, if it’s something we can, in fact, control. This leads to the last step.

Knowing What We Can Control and Doing Something About It

We can’t change mistreatment that happened in the past. We can address mistreatment that’s happening now.

We can’t change someone else’s decision or behavior if they aren’t willing to change. We can change how we respond to them (and choose to help educate and positively influence them).

We can’t change that tragedies have occurred, in our own lives or in places across the globe. We can support causes that seek to prevent future tragedies, or even spearhead our own.

And we can’t guarantee specific outcomes for our actions, but we can increase our odds of making a difference by being clear-headed, patient, and consistent.

Sometimes there will be unfair things that we simply need to accept, and it might feel instinctive to fight that. We’re only human, and we will sometimes give in to our emotional responses.

What’s important is that we try to move beyond them so we don’t let the things we can’t control take control of us.

Photo by Panoramas

Avatar of Lori Deschene

About Lori Deschene

Tiny Buddha Founder Lori Deschene is the author of the Tiny Wisdom eBook series (which includes one free eBook) & co-founder of Recreate Your Life Story, an eCourse that helps you get unstuck & change your life. She's now seeking stories to include in her next book, 365 Tiny Love Challenges by Tiny Buddha. Click here to share your story! For inspiring posts and wisdom quotes, follow Tiny Buddha on Twitter & Facebook.

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  • Andrea

    another one i can relate to too well…well said!

  • Carmelo Bryan

    Hi Lori,

    You really have explained this well and given a path to handle things when we see injustices around us. Which we can see daily! And isn’t that the thing? If we let ourselves get into that, there’s almost no end to unfairness.

    It’s the same as wanting to “make everything right!” as you alluded to. It’s a never ending battle if that’s where we choose to go. I suppose we can try, but we better be ready for a lifetime struggle!

    My dad “suffered” from wanting the world to be right and it seemed to make him fearful and powerless. The world, for him, was a very scary place. Sad. I was lucky enough to be able to see that and I’ve done my best to steer clear of that trap.

    Love your topics, Lori. Thank you!

  • Lily

    What if the place a friend lent you to stay in for a whole month is overrun with fleas and doesn’t seem to care? No matter what measures I take, I can’t get rid of them, and am covered with painful itchy flea bites. I have to deal with this for 3 more weeks. It was generous of him to lend me the place to stay, but he didn’t make any effort for it to be livable. Is that fair?

  • Bradkerbick

    Hi Lori,
    I am just going through my second divorce, and its not fair. LOL life never is. Yes I have ownership and made mistakes! I am not sure how I stumbled across this website, but it has truly been a life saver!! Thanks to everyone who post. Here’s to the future and all the limitless ( if we allow it) possiblities.
    Love Dale

  • Keolalani

    Wonderfully stated, Lori, and a lot of good advice for me to re-read and remember. Thank yo for that.

    AT THE SAME TIME, I find I take some issue with the assertion conveyed in second sentence of the last section – i.e., “We can’t change someone else’s decision or behavior. We can change how we respond to them.”

    I confess my radar is fine-tuned to “absolutes”, thus offer the following …

    With sincere respect and in all candor, I’m convinced that we not only “can” change another’s decision – or at least their behavior – AND, in certain cases not only have a responsibility to do so, but in doing so, can or have prevented extraordinary pain and/or loss of life for others.

    Were we to take your assertion to heart, as one example, we would not have stepped up to stop Hitler in WWII. In fact, the US hung back from taking action so long that far too many suffered unbearable pain or death as a result. Indeed, a case could be made that had we acted sooner, a good percentage of what happened in death camps would never have occurred.

    Today we face similar actions on the part of Assad in Syria – with 20,000+ civilians (including untold numbers of noncombatant men, women and children) killed and mounting.

    As another example, anyone who doesn’t think they can – or have an extreme, absolute obligation – to prevent IN THE PRECISE MOMENT an act of child abuse or domestic abuse of a woman is in EXTREME DENIAL.

    While I certainly appreciate the description provided w/re to how our brains are “hardwired” for fairness and that unfairness triggers the amygdala primitive part of the brain controlling fear and anger, I sense there is a “deeper” part of that dynamic – namely that somewhere in our being – far beyond merely “fairness or unfairness between individuals” – exists a fundamental yet deeply buried for many awareness that “Life is One” at its core. Indeed, were this awareness to NOT exist somewhere within our being, we’d simply be incapable of considering it, feeling it, and striving for its fullness – which, I would humbly offer represents the ground of being of any great spiritual teaching/practice … including the Buddha.

    Lastly, in response to … “Other times we’ll still feel strongly that we need to fight for
    justice—but this doesn’t require aggression. It requires calm, careful
    planning and acting, if it’s something we can, in fact, control.” …

    I believe there IS a place for justifiable “social outrage”. Were this not the case, many of the “achievements” we are privileged to enjoy today will likely not exist.

    This holds true for the realities of war when it has become unfortunately necessary, for certain actions on the part of police when like combat, aggression IS what is called for. It has ALSO been a very real part of the achievement of women’s suffrage, civil rights, and the end of slavery. None of these – among others – were wholly achieved absent of a fair measure of justified, publicly-displayed anger and aggression.

    While I wish it were so that certain misdeeds and even systemic processes could be stopped “calmly without aggression” – in the world you describe that is “unfair”, the reality ALSO is that sometimes it takes an “equal or greater reaction” in order to bring a full stop to certain threats to the well-being of life.

    Hope the above helps in this discussion.


  • Toltrider

    You sound like you believe you are powerless. Staying in a flea infested place cannot be your only option. Hire an exterminator, find a friend or relative to stay with, go to a homeless shelter, sleep in your car, stay in a cheap motel, pitch a tent, and so forth. Yes, it seems unfair that he is not willing to rid the place of fleas but he did offer it (free, I am assuming) and no one is forcing you to accept or stay there. Take some control of your situation.

  • Nina Knox

    Excellent post! Very well said!

  • z

    I am struggling with how to stop obsessing with unfairness within my life and it is taking a toll on my sanity. I discovered my husband had an affair with someone who knew he was married and continued to pursue him for years. She was successful during a time when we were having problems. I know the real blame lies with him, but logic fails me. Or more accurately, my emotions are running ramshod over the real truth of this situation. I want to hurt her. I want her to suffer, not physically, but emotionally. I have never wished suffering on anyone, but I find myself obsessing on how to cause her the most embarassment and pain. This is not who I am or who I wish to be, but the thought of her being able to go on with a happy life while I fear for my sanity and my child’s future if I break up my family just kills me. I haven’t done anything and I probably won’t, but I cannot find a way to productively cope with the unfairness of my situation. I have faced far worse situations and betrayals, but this is getting the best of me.

  • Mark B Hoover

    Each time I catch myself thinking “That’s not fair” I quickly remember that is an expression of victimhood. We tend to believe we are getting the short end if our expectations don’t pan out. Oscar Wilde said “Life is never fair, and perhaps it is a good thing for most of us that it is not.” He’s right. If we each imposed our sense of fairness upon others, fairness itself would never manifest.
    Imagine karma with individuals’ “fair” requisites in the mix. Who is the arbiter? We have an infinite array of influences affecting each and every outcome in our lives. Actions : Consequences. If I take something out specifically for me there is less for another.
    “What’s important is that we try to move beyond them so we don’t let the things we can’t control take control of us.” Indeed. It’s not what we get out of life that truly matters, it’s what we do with what we get. Lemonade and all that.
    Thank you Lori.
    ~ Mark

  • Lashpal

    I lived many years of life considering others more than me and bearing all injustice. But we have to live life of justice considering us as a human being too. tahnk you for this article.

  • Lori Deschene

    Hi Larry,

    Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts on the subject!

    I think perhaps I didn’t express what I intended to express. I believe we can and should influence another person’s behavior and decisions when they are harming others, but *they* need to choose to change. We can’t make them do it unless they are willing.

    I believe we all have a responsibility to take care of each other, and speak up against injustices, but at the same time, we need to accept that there will be some unfair things that do not change, despite our intentions and efforts. I don’t mean this to imply we shouldn’t care and work for justice, but rather that we life won’t always be fair, and accepting this can mean the difference between persistent suffering and the possibility of peace.

    Your comment really gave me food for thought, particularly regarding ‘social outrage.” Thank you again for taking the time to write!


    UPDATE: I edited that part of the post to better communicate the sentiments you so beautifully expressed. I wouldn’t want to suggest we should simply accept the harming of others–so thank you again for pointing this out!

  • Lori Deschene

    You’re most welcome!

  • Lori Deschene

    Thanks Andrea. I’m glad you found it helpful!

  • Lori Deschene

    Thanks Carmelo! You bring up a great point, about how it can be a never-ending battle. That’s wonderful you’ve been able to avoid that trap, even growing up witnessing that type of behavior!

  • Lori Deschene

    What a beautiful ending statement Dale. Here’s to the future and its possibilities!

  • Lori Deschene

    Thanks Nina!

  • Kathy Kruger

    I think you are so right. Fair and unfair may be valid moral judgements but they don’t do us much good, anymore than deciding that things should be labelled good or bad (Oh I think I just made a ‘good’ judgement). Justice has its rightful place in law, in ethics, but in life we don’t achieve much by dwelling on ‘unfairness’ (although considering fairness and gratitude will certainly help us). I’ve had a lot of ‘negative’ experience with branding the world unfair. It got me nowhere and brought me pain. Not. Worth. It. Accepting that same unfairness brought me some measure of wisdom and a sense of peace. Much more worthwhile.

  • Bradkerbick

    I struggle with wishing negative thoughts towards my ex as well. Why, why, why I keep asking myself. Then I remember I cannot change the past and try focus on MY and my kids future! Today just may be the day that everything falls into place and I can understand why!!! It is happening for a reason, and the reason will be a blessing when we find out. We are not alone, not ever!!! Love Dale

  • Rodney

    I want to say that when it comes to the larger global issues we can get ourselves upset because we unconsciously think that the entire outcome rests upon your shoulders and yours alone.

    Makes sense?

  • lv2terp

    This is fantastic, and perfect timing!! Thank you for sharing your wisdom and experiences, it is a tremendous help to me everyday! :) I really appreciated this part…”Sometimes there will be unfair things that we simply need to accept,
    and it might feel instinctive to fight that. We’re only human, and we
    will sometimes give in to our emotional responses. What’s important is that we try to move beyond them so we don’t let the things we can’t control take control of us.”….Thank you again, truly awesome! :)

  • Aren Swensin

    Excellent post. I have come into contact with these feelings so many times and let negativity take over. I always come back to the point where I realize that nothing good comes from negativity and if its a friend that has wronged me right or wrong I will always apologize and let them know their value to me and how far more important they are to me than some dumb argument. I still am working on getting better at this though and would prefer that I could stop myself in the moment. Spreading positivity is always so much more rewarding than dwelling on the negative, even if the situation may deserve your attention, if it causes negative emotions just ignore it and focus on something that you feel good about.

  • Lori Deschene

    I know what you mean Aren–I still have to work at this! I wish I could say I never let myself dwell on negativity, but I have my moments. You’re right–it feels so much better to spread positivity. And it’s always so gratifying to recognize progress when it comes to letting go and coming back to the present moment.

  • Lori Deschene

    You’re most welcome! This one has been a big issue in my life, so I was excited to get all my thoughts down!

  • Lori Deschene

    I know what you mean. It can be a powerless feeling to think about everything unjust happening around the world. On the one hand, we want to do our part to help end other people’s suffering; on the other hand, we owe it to ourselves not to cause ourselves suffering. I think it’s a balance–doing our part to help others without hurting ourselves.

  • Satish Saladi

    Nicely written, we always feel that we should have acted rationally and think before we act or utter a word. Mastering it is an art, continious practice, being true to ourselves is important, then only we will stay in peace.
    When ever we start trying to change from what we were, the first thing we face is “resisting to change” because we feel that we would miss something or some happiness from the present lifestyle if we change ourselves. One must cross that barrier.
    The second thing we face is that we try giving explanations to others or letting them know indirectly that we are trying to change ourselves or we tell them that we have changed. “Change is an observation and not an explanation” its a process to to live in peace in harmony, bringing peace and joy to people whom you are with. Its not an examination to pass and prove yourself to the world.
    Attitude is a reflection of charecter. Very recently one thing which I have realized is “You cannot controll others or other things” The only thing which you can control or perhaps you should controll is only YOU” . Controlling is not setting up boundaries but your agression and reaction to the events.
    Some times you need to accept:
    Unless you are very fortunate or extremely lucky you will not get every thing the way you desired the relult to be. I dont say give up but make yourself comfortable to the out come of an event. No one else can make you feel comfortable, you are the only one who can do that. To make yourself comfortable, you must be willingful to accept that you can make urself comfortable with the out come….U tried wht you can and you cant change it now.

  • Marty

    Fantastic post Lori. Thank you!

  • Lori Deschene

    Thanks Marty, and you’re most welcome!

  • Renee Wong

    Yah,really fantastic,Lori.Everyday,I’m trying to get there,there -meaning all the solution that you’ve written.Getting there,tiny steps.thank you!

  • Lori Deschene

    You’re most welcome Renee!

  • VolunteerAus

    Hi Lori,
    Thanks for the great post.

    These topics you write about are things I’ve been thinking about recently. When to act and how to react.

    When we see an injustice or plight we feel something. We feel anger, sadness, despondence or struggle. It’s acknowledging feeling a certain way and accepting it but taking a moment to think before reacting that’s the hard part. Impulse reaction, I think, is what gets in the way of understanding certain situations and that hinders us from seeing things differently.
    It’s kind of the default reaction.

    I, reluctantly, agree with your comment to Larry saying that sometimes we need to accept that there will be some unfair things that do not change, despite our intentions and efforts.

    For a number of years i’ve been volunteering with the elderly in a nursing home where a family member of mine resides. It has given me a bit of perspective of how immensely different her generation thinks and I often bear that in mind when I’m in a confronting/antagonistic situation.
    Sometimes you’ve just got to listen and not say anything.

    Thanks again


  • Pete Sapper

    I love this article – Thank you Lori. If only people realized how much their innate ‘justice mechanism’ and its relentless ‘need to be right’ has become the major barrier to their own happiness …

  • Lori Deschene

    Thanks Pete! I’m glad you enjoyed it. =)

  • Saartje

    Hi Lori,

    Thanks again for an inspiring article. I am struggling with what I consider an unfair situation at work, and as always when I brooding on something that is occupying my thoughts and emotions, I turn to Google for help and just type Buddhism + whatever is bothering me (in this case: unfairness). And as always, Google leads me to Tiny Buddha, and as always Tiny Buddha helps me get my head and heart around things!

    Thank you

  • Lori Deschene

    You’re most welcome! I’m sorry to hear about your unfair situation at work. I’ve been there before. That’s so exciting for me, to know Google frequently leads you here and that the posts help you. =)

  • Saartje

    I’m not even sure there is really unfairness in what is going on, I just feel that someone is getting advantages they shouldn’t be, and I feel silly for not using the same loopholes to my own advantage, but instead being honest and hard working… You know how they say that good girls get to heaven and bad girls get everywhere, well, I feel like the good girl.

    But, I realized that I feel happy doing what I do, and a few colleagues came out and told me that they really appreciate my attitude, as opposed to the ‘bad girl’s’ attitude, and I realized that I really can’t judge what is going on in that bad girl’s life and maybe she really is entitled to all the (completely excessive and incomprehensible (I’m not a saint ;-)!) advantages she’s getting.

    And last but not least, I should say that I think it’s only fair that you should be in the top hits on Google (try Buddhism + unfairness, you out on top), since your site contains such a wealth of information, but is easy to digest at the same time! Congrats on your work, I’m sure you’re helping a lot more people than just me! Something like this post might seem very straight forward or theoretical to some, but for me it really helps to figure things out, and I can honestly say my life has improved by reading (and applying!) it!

  • Binu

    But if we are not willing to go so far as to actually put our own lives on the line to fight injustice, are we not guilty of not doing enough ? If everyone played it safe then a lot of good we see today would never have happened. ‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere’. But I really loved your thoughts on this. Take care.

  • Francois Fermier

    It’s been a year almost to the day when a terrible injustice was done to me, and there is nothing that can be done about it. No sense to go into details, but my life basically damaged forever, and badly. Am trying so hard to just accept and not to make things worse by going over it gain and again in mind. During the day do often forget, but just about every night the whole nasty business returns in dreams. Am trying to find peace in mind. Have read your article and hope to gain from your knowledge, but frankly don’t have much hope. There are people far worse off than I, sufferers from terrible, or mortal, illnesses. They would gladly exchange places with me, and I feel like an ungrateful wretch to be whining and crying.

  • Pete Sapper

    Don’t judge yourself Francois, you feel the way you have every right to feel at this very moment. However, there may come a time where you’ll feel it better serves you to embrace your feelings of injustice and fully transform them into feelings of gratitude.

    If and when you feel ready to do so, perhaps Amy Purdy’s story will fuel your transformation –

    Remember that who you really are has no limits, my friend. Whatever has happened to us may have happened for us to be a shining, inspiring example for the others you mention who’ve had worse happen – who undoubtedly require our uplifting.

  • Kerry

    This was so helpful. I also was led here by a Google search (for “letting go of injustice”) and it really helped to acknowledge that the only two productive things I can do are to accept or to try to change things. That clears my mind greatly from dwelling on the anger that arises from thinking about the situation, and reducing the action to “is this worth the energy it takes to try to change things”? Thank you, Lori.

  • Lori Deschene

    You’re most welcome Kerry. I’m glad this helped!

  • tesmith47

    you have some good points but—– the Black people that were kidnapped to the “new world” have been the target of every type of degradation whites here have thought of from mass rape to lynching to psychological torture to any thing you can think of for 500 years .
    can you really call this perceived injustices? does this not justify anger and resentment?

  • distressed

    I came across this article when I was particularly doing a google search with the terms “dealing unfairness”. I am increasingly becoming intolerant to unfairness and several other qualities that are very important to me, but evidently not much to others.

    I had to look out for articles in some sort of an emergency situation as I started panicking because I knew that one of my team mates was being sent for a training that is very important to me as well. Especially since that person would be trained on somehting that I handle. I have nothing against the person, but feel so wronged when everyone should receive equal opportunity to do well.

    I am happy that that person gets this opportunity knowing the unfairness that they’ve had to deal with in their previous jobs. But that doesn’t help me and I keep brooding on why I was left out. I feel like crying which is crazy especially when you are sitting at your work alone.

    I want to be able to feel completely unaffected and detached by this and dont want it to show in my actions of words that it affects me. But extremely expressive that I am, I can’t manage it. Do you think there’s some way I can do it?

  • Steve F

    Hi. I’m going through a stretch at the moment where I reckon life is unfair, and that it should be fair. Good things should happen to good people. Bad things should happen to bad people. I’m trying to get as much information for further thought as possible. This article, and the comments provided by people, have been very useful.
    Steve F

  • Lori Deschene

    I’m glad this helped Steve!

  • adam


  • leolasmom

    Late to the party, but no one has touched this comment so I figure I’ll give it a shot… I’m a member of the oppressed group of which you speak. I don’t think the issue is so much whether or not anger and resentment is justified as much it is whether or not embracing it will do you any good. It may seem insensitive or even crass, but the choice of whether or not to spend your life enraged comes down to two economic principles—opportunity cost and cost/benefit analysis. As much as we would love to be able to multitask, humans are really only capable of doing one thing at a time. This means every hour spent in the pursuit of goal X necessarily detracts from those available to pursue goal Y. So, whose potential isn’t maximized when you choose to forgo opportunities and positive life experiences, opting instead to sacrifice them at the altar of offense? Who loses when you spend precious years devoting your thoughts to being angry at
    people who simply go about their lives, rarely—if ever—giving you or the
    plight of your kin a moment’s thought? And, considering the matter of honoring your predecessors, whose struggles for a better life have been for naught when you choose to spend your time rehashing the horrible atrocities from which your forebears fought to keep you from experiencing? No one can change the past, but you sure can poison the future for yourself and your children by “taking the bait” and wasting the present.

  • tesmith47

    if it were just the past, then what you are saying would be acceptable.
    but there are 2 issues, 1 the advantages and dis advantages of the past are perpetuated and justified in the present. AND 2 the same system of thought that was responsible for the past is still embraced by the same people for the same reason..
    Now i would agree the destructive sort of anger is not useful but righteous anger is whats needed.

  • leolasmom

    It isn’t about acceptability–the list of unacceptable things in life is an endless one. It’s about pragmatism, and figuring out what is the best use of your time. There’s a big difference in the performance of Black immigrants vs. Black Americans in this country, and I firmly believe it has to do with each population’s general approach. American society at large cannot tell us apart, so we face the same discrimination, but the difference is one set of people treats that discrimination as a mere speedbump, whereas the other treats it as a roadblock. An RCP article I read entitled “Black Immigrants, An Invisible ‘Model Minority’”quoted a Jamaican immigrant explaining that she was too busy working toward her goals to take time out to stew on the injustices she faced in this country, and I couldn’t agree more. Why deny you and your children of a life spent living happily and productively?
    The bottom line is anger—righteous or otherwise—gives you a pretty low bang for your buck. It gets you nowhere, wastes your time, and if you subscribe to the notion that the definition of sanity is taking the same action over and over and expecting a different result, is robbing too many Blacks of their mental health and peace.

  • Valente

    Lori, thank you for your article. Can I ask you, what if you have to continue to work together with the person – and you almost cannot look at them without thinking about the past perceived unfairness, which they disagree on and found fair? How to go back to considering them fair, caring, considerate and not feel silly for having been taken advantage of? In my situation I am grumpy about what I perceive to have been unfair for years. The “unfairness” has solved itself going forward, but I keep moaning in myself and towards that person can no longer be my bubbly, optimistic and sharing self, however hard I try.

  • Lori Deschene

    Hi Valente~

    Are you able to identify anything positive that came from the perceived unfairness? Something you gained or learned? It could even be something small–like an opportunity to practice letting go. If you can shift your perception so that you recognize some benefit of what happened, it will likely be easier to let go of your anger toward this person.

    It may also help to try to see things from their angle. If this person believed it was fair, it’s either because 1.) it’s not black and white, meaning you may able to see where they’re coming from or 2.) they’re lying to themselves about the truth, which probably means they’re hurting in some way. (As they say, hurt people hurt people.) And if you can recognize there’s some pain there, it may help you find some compassion for them.

    I hope this helps a little!


  • Courtney Johnston

    Lori, I really needed this.

    I realize it’s 2 years old, but so relevant + evergreen!

    The instant emotional reaction to being treated with disrespect/ unfairly is where I get stuck. If I can avoid that, I’m golden. If I don’t, things just spiral out of control.

    I just had a police-involved scenario with my landlord yesterday because he treated me like shit…and then the police did, too. I was so upset for the past 24 hours that I couldn’t get back to that rational place, even though I needed to. Your article has helped me to shift my perspective!

  • Lori Deschene

    I’m so sorry to hear about your ordeal, Courtney–but glad this helped!

  • Leon

    Good article, this helped me in the present moment. I’m generally calm and accepting what I can and can’t change but Feminism and the ignorance it breeds now made me a little angry. Thanks for the article Lori :).

  • Lori Deschene

    You’re most welcome. I’m glad it was helpful to you!

  • tru_blu_indian

    how do you deal with the injustice done by your parents inspite of being an obedient person all throughout your life??

  • COA

    It’s human nature to seek to avoid pain, or show compassion to others in suffering.

    I think this is why we avert unfairness, and well it’s good for general social conduct.

    So, what is wrong in showing compassion, whilst still accepting that the world cannot be totally fair and humans can be cruel?

    I see it as a balance, look to ensure compassion whilst accepting that not all of us or will be compassionate or kindly. to assert though that life is a bitch and we do nothing is IMHO unnatural.

  • Zasek

    What you say makes me smile, and maybe that’s all I needed it to do right now.
    The thing that gives me peace is knowing that a day will come long after days and nights have stopped when all possible futures will be the same, and all possible pasts will be redundant. Universal heat death. The ripples on the pond will stop and there will be silence.

  • Carin Rutherford Berry Creel

    If you really want to cause her pain, work on fixing your marriage so that she cannot have him… you have a family to consider, and people make mistakes such as your husband did… and so perhaps forgiving him and getting rid of her is what you should be concentrating on? Figure out what is not working in your marriage and love life, and work on that.

  • dave.

    is it fair to love your family with all you got, even if your family is split up and penniless. even when family members beat you to the floor in front of your friends. is it fair that the brother i did every thing for growing up bashes me to the floor and kicks me and tells me i deserve it when hes mad. is it fair that im left disfigured and lonely ., while he has everything. is it fair i cant leave the house with out verbal abuse , is it fucking fair that my day has been the same for many years. best thing about living is that it has to end sometime,

  • tinybuddha

    No, it’s absolutely not fair, and my heart goes out to you. I’m so sorry to hear about all the hardship you’ve faced. I don’t know you, but I know you didn’t deserve that. I realize you’re in a lot of pain, understandably, but is there anything in your life that brings you joy?

  • DJ

    Thank you for this insightful article. It puts perspective on the aspects (cause and effect) of unfairness, and how one should step back and reflect.

  • Gilly

    I have been named as a person our manager does not like and was resigning because of me he incited people too gang up against me . He was leaving anyway for a bigger salary he made it personal and was suspended and not allowed to work his notice. He has caused a divide some people saying he was a good manager some did not agree with this personal attack. I am devastated I had a really bad panic attack and now want to leave myself because I feel people are against me. How can I move forward when I feel so vilified I would never hurt any one I can’t seem to pick myself up

  • Lori Deschene

    You’re most welcome. I’m glad it helped! (Sorry for the painfully slow response…)

  • Lori Deschene

    I’m so sorry to hear about what happened, Gilly. I know how tempting it can be to walk away when you’re feeling misunderstood and vilified.

    There’s a quote I read recently that may really resonate with you:

    “Never make a permanent decision because of temporary feelings.”

    I know it may not seem like these feelings are temporary, but all feelings are. And if you can see your way through this, you will learn and grow through the process, and maybe even feel proud of how you handled something that anyone would find overwhelming.

    Perhaps it will help to tell yourself this: If people are against you, it’s because they aren’t seeing you clearly. If you stay, you give them a chance to do that. There’s no guarantee they will, but at the very least, you will know that you did your best in a difficult situation. And that will help you build your resilience so that you’re better able to pick yourself up should something like this happen again in the future.

    I hope this helps a little. You are in my thoughts!