How to Deal with Unfairness and Change the Things You Can

Teenage girl looking thoughtful about troubles

“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’s 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 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.

About Lori Deschene

Lori Deschene is the founder of Tiny Buddha and Recreate Your Life Story, an online course that helps you let go of the past and live a life you love. Her latest bookTiny Buddha’s Gratitude Journal, which includes 15 coloring pages, is now available for purchase. For daily wisdom, follow Tiny Buddha on Twitter, Facebook & Instagram..

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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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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!

  • You’re most welcome!

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

  • 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!

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

  • Thanks Nina!

  • 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! 🙂

  • 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.

  • 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.

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

  • 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.

  • 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!

  • Thanks Marty, and you’re most welcome!

  • 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!

  • You’re most welcome Renee!

  • 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


  • 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 …

  • 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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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

  • 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.

  • 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!

  • 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 :).

  • 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

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

  • 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!


  • shikira

    Simple ‘positive thinking’ is always within our capabilities and you don’t need a guide to be in contact with innate self-awareness. Social injustice is an infinite reality, no matter how spiritually engaged we succumb to the tiny buddah inside – traumatic life experiences that have rendered us disabled; stapled to a time-shift and powerless to change this – cannot and must never be underestimated, nor reduced to the limitations of positive thought alone.

    I have lived an unsettled way of life as a result of childhood abuse – put myself through the impossible quest of bettering myself through education, travel, developing spiritual and all other human centered goals, only to arrive at 41; living in supported housing on benefits and no prospects of changing the situation (unless) I win the lottery. Many uncultured people will argue the point that, you can indeed, overcome anything no matter how hard, yet they have not been alienated, stigmatized nor left on the outside of society’s proletariat devide to know that the ‘tiny buddah’ within – suffocated under the sheer weight of social marginalization.

    To illustrate the point more tangibly: without family, social connectedness and/or the material resources to change, no amount of spiritual guidance or looking to the Orange-Core of enlightenment, will make a marked transformation. It merely assauges a sense of self purpose within the confines of individual circumstances. Possibly raising higher – expectations of the self as I have found, only to be greeted with tantamount dissapointment when positive thinking has failed to reward me for all of the spiritual efforts poured into making desires and goals concrete.

    Having scoured the works of Deepak Chopra and other renowned spiritualists, I know all too well the familiar warmth of enlightment and its exciting impact upon one’s aura – it makes you tall, beautiful and infinitely wise of where not to tread, yet it most certainly does not lavish your desires for a house of your own if you live in rented accommodation; take you off benefits and get a well salaried career nor bless you with the right choices – this only happens to the ardent ambitous and those already blessed with the right support or connections.

  • shikira

    Simple ‘positive thinking’ is always within our capabilities and you don’t need a guide to be in contact with innate self-awareness. Social injustice is an infinite reality, no matter how spiritually engaged we succumb to the tiny Buddha inside – traumatic life experiences that have rendered us disabled; stapled to a time-shift and powerless to change this – cannot and must never be underestimated, nor reduced to the limitations of positive thought alone.

    I have lived an unsettled way of life as a result of childhood abuse – put myself through the impossible quest of bettering myself through education, travel, developing spiritual and all other human centered goals, only to arrive at 41; living in supported housing on benefits and no prospects of changing the situation (unless) I win the lottery. Many uncultured people will argue the point that, you can indeed, overcome anything no matter how hard, yet they have not been alienated, stigmatized nor left on the outside of society’s proletariat divide to know that the ‘tiny Buddha’ within – suffocated under the sheer weight of social marginalization.

    To illustrate the point more tangibly: without family, social connectedness and/or the material resources to change, no amount of spiritual guidance or looking to the Orange-Core of enlightenment, will make a marked transformation. It merely assuages a sense of self purpose within the confines of individual circumstances. Possibly raising higher – expectations of the self as I have found, only to be greeted with tantamount disappointment when positive thinking has failed to reward me for all of the spiritual efforts poured into making desires and goals concrete.

    Having scoured the works of Deepak Chopra and other renowned spiritualists, I know all too well the familiar warmth of enlightenment and its exciting impact upon one’s aura – it makes you tall, beautiful and infinitely wise of where not to tread, yet it most certainly does not lavish your desires for a house of your own if you live in rented accommodation; take you off benefits and get a well salaried career nor bless you with the right choices – this only happens to the ardent ambitious and those already blessed with the right support or connections.

  • Svet

    I was with this guy for almost 2 years. I have always felt inadequate and second best when i was with him. But he would always assure me and tell me that i’m the only one and that he loves me. So we hooked up on a regular basis and we called it a “complicated relationship.” We used to be together but we broke up because he kissed his best friend. He said he was drunk and he is sorry after that so i accepted him back.

    Little did i know, he was telling lies about me to her and everyone after that. i spent almost a year kept under the rug and hoping things would change like how he always promised.
    Until one day, i snapped and left him. So he got together with the other girl and then it wasn’t long until she started calling me a liar because of whatever he has been telling her about me.

    I have a new boyfriend now so i told him to back off and that if he is going to lie to her (like what he did to me), then make sure i don’t see it or i will be forced to defend myself. He still didnt stop and continued telling lies about me. He even talked to his other friends to support him on his claims.

    I feel really bad that all these while i was taken for a ride and was cheated on. And as if that wasn’t good enough, he turned the tables and lied to everyone about me. He created absurd stories so that i would look like a psycho and still have the guts to call me a liar and a psychopath myself.

    I felt that he did me great injustice and i hate him for doing it to me.

  • Anonymous Waitress

    I work as a waitress and recently my hours have gotten cut. The other waitresses that i work with aren’t giving very good service and it’s reflection and me too even though my service is fine. These other waitresses try you blame things on me. What do you think i should do? i can’t just not do anything because i need my hours to stop getting cut because i need money. Please help 🙁

  • Hi there,

    I’m so sorry to hear about your hours getting cut. Have you talked to your boss about this already?


  • jag

    Hi Lori,

    I read this when I was under the cloud of obsessive thinking. Yes how can life be fair, if it is for the soul to experience all the emotions.

    Thnx for getting me out of it. Back to life 🙂

    Wishing u peace,

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


  • Rosanna Lewis

    This has been the best form of help I have received after a court case injustice that has held me down for over two years. I was struggling to come to terms with being assaulted and then was perceived to be the bad person after defending myself. It has been mostly unfair but I’m moving forward and feel I can do it 100% after reading this.

  • I’m so sorry to learn about the assault, Rosanna, and the injustice of being deemed in the wrong for defending yourself. I can only imagine how painful that was for you. I’m glad this helped somewhat!

  • monae diggs

    I know this is a late comment but this article really helped me a little. You cannot change what happened that may have been unfair you learn from it and vow to try not to make that mistake again. My father lived his life as if I did not exist, and only acknowledged his other daughter who is the oldest, he always was there for her birthdays and even had her visit him and his mom over the summer, he praises her and brags on her achievements to me before, he has never made plans to spend time with me in person, last time I saw him I was six, and that was not a pleasant time he didn’t even socialize with me just argued with my mother. So now that I’m an adult I’ve come to realize I cannot change the fact that he does not want me to be a part of his life for no reason, all I can do is move on and live life like I was doing without him. It’s too bad he’ll never know me or get to know me.

  • monae diggs

    I cannot change the way he is, it’s sad my daughter will never know her grandfather because of his own selfishness and attitude. I know I couldn’t imagine being cruel towards my grandkids in the future instead I’m going to spend time with them each chance I get.

  • revoltman

    Gem of an article.
    I needed this.
    Thanks a lot Lori.

  • You’re most welcome. =)

  • Anna

    I am really sorry to hear your story. I do believe we attract things into our lives through our thoughts. Good and bad. I am by nature a bitter person. That has made life way harder. While I have the emotional support of my family, financially I have struggled to survive. I put my sadness aside and had faith. I won’t say how but a miracle happened and I am doing well financially one because to have faith and not let life get you down is your lifeline.

    Life can be very very unfair. Those of us who have experienced abuse can feel broken inside. Don’t give away your power. As painful as it is, it has made you a more insightful human being.

  • Guest

    For myself, I have been angry at my parents-in-law for never accepting me into the family. I have thought about ways to tell them off and think if only they could feel as excluded as they have made me feel. But then I try to remember that reliving that moment where they exclude me from family photos, etc just hurts me and not them.

    I can’t make them like me. Maybe I represent that they did not want their son to move on with his life? I don’t know.

    My parents-in-law are also very judgemental and close minded. My husband is the opposite! He is very accepting and kind. Good example of seeing the behavior of others and deciding not to live that way yourself.

    The bottom line is it is his parents choice to be miserable and blame others for their unhappiness. I have learned to detach myself from their reactions to me going forward.

    When I go down the road of negative obsessing, I try and think of something (anything) to be grateful for in that moment. That helps diffuse the overwhelming wave of frustration that would pull me in.

    Just have to continue to try and focus on the good vs what is wrong as thoughts are things that expand and expand!

  • Guest

    I am also losing my sanity because of my inability to deal with unfairness in the workplace. I identify so much with your article because I feel as if I could have written it myself. It’s a vicious cycle and the entire office participates in the discussion but I know that deep down that the unfairness bothers and impacts me much more strongly than anyone else. I’ve tried “no complain” days and I get about an hour in and people ask me “what’s wrong”… I just don’t know how to draw a line in the sand and start to think differently about it.

  • eveheart88

    It is very nicely written and described.. Thank you. very much.
    Can my Human Rights come back ?

  • Evert

    John Scalzi said: “There’s a difference between the fact that the universe is inherently unfair on a cosmic level, and the fact that life is unfair because people are actively making it so.”
    The former is something we have to accept, the latter not. Unfortunatly society is based on unfairness (it is the driving force behind economics) so i that case we either accept we are part of a society that keeps unfairness actively alive, or we just shut up and never bother about being moral or ethical again.

  • ppxAnonymous

    Find The.Luciferian.Doctrine.pdf

  • Will Cool

    I have copious incidents of horrendous injustices in my life, for which no justice can ever truly remit the harms (as well as a vast unlikeliness for any redress of those injustices ever actually occurring). I have a deep and abiding anger from this, which I find so overwhelming that my psychological defenses literally shut me down whenever I truly try to experience and come to terms with those feelings, going into catatonic fugues when that anger finds a trigger.
    The injustices seem so large that just letting them go feels like condoning those acts and offends my conscience further, while holding onto them only embitters me. Until now, I have sublimated them as best as I have been able, trying to balance between neither quite forgetting nor actively remembering, but as I have aged, my triggers for the anger have only gotten broader and more sensitive. At the root, lies a deep and abiding faith in a moral fairness in the Universe. As MLK said so well, “The moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends toward justice,” although as he demonstrated, that arc length can easily stretch well beyond any one person’s lifetime. And yet, giving up the hope of any redress leaves me deeply angry and embittered, both, depressed and suicidal, with nothing but an abiding sense of futility, resentment and lacking any sense of self-worth.
    I don’t know where to go with this, as my time left to deal with it grows short, because my capacity to cope has been evaporating increasingly quickly. Having someone to work through it with me no longer seems plausible, and I have been repeatedly warned against it as my problems run deeper than any but the most intimate of connections could address, and can only injure anyone who engages them with me.
    So what to do with such monstrous injustice and resulting anger? I feel cornered and up against a wall. I value this site and would greatly appreciate any insights you may have as to a course of action to pursue.
    Thanks for your efforts,
    Will Cool
    Portland, Oregon, USA

  • serife

    This is a great post! A recent experience made me really nervous and I couldn’t stop thinking about that for the last few days. I was just repeating “stop having victim feelings, you are not a victim” over and over and trying to be mindful. Your post clearly shows me the next steps to heal myself. Thanks Lori!

  • You’re most welcome! I’m glad it helped. =)

  • Human wire doesn’t need a come-back, in return, to be kind.
    Charity committers volunteer for the good feeling. Not publicity.
    The hardwire is also that we’re a pack. Stronger others, stronger selves.

  • Mahesh

    That was both practical and compassionate Lori. I’ve been struggling this for a while and chanced upon this article by running a search on what the Buddha had said 🙂
    But no, I’ve been unable to achieve closure

  • I’m so sorry that you’ve been unable to achieve closure, Mahash. I hope this helped a little!

  • Melclark

    Wow, this really hits me directly. I’ve been marginalized on a job that I’ve had for 8 years. I’ve been denied training opportunities afforded to other staff; I definitely have the flight feeling, but jobs are hard to find, so I’m pretty much stuck with it until I can find something else. It’s very hard to deal with discrimination when I’ve never dealt with it before. And there’s not a lot I can do to change this bad working culture. Then my lack of training is used against me because something I should have known would have been covered in the trainings I should have had to begin with; why hire me then to just deny me what I should have had in the beginning. Very demoralizing. I’m not the only one that this is happening to, but there are some people that are picks by upper management that gets all of the training and education opportunities, they even hire relatives that current staff could do the job. It isn’t fair, and very unethical, but I can’t do anything about it, I have no control over what upper management does, if you complain, upper management retaliates against you. Two learned that the hard way and had to leave their job, so I keep my mouth shut because I need my job. I’ve gone to the extent of paying out of pocket for my training so they won’t hold that against me, it’s been very expensive for me, but now they have no excuse, but they continue to treat me with such disdain. I’ve showed nothing but loyalty and initiative. I get great job reviews every year by my supervisor, but it is upper management above him that is the problem, he doesn’t have any control over their denial of the training, everything has to go through them. I’ll continue to look for better employment, but afraid that it will happen again. My confidence has really took a tumble.

  • Melclark

    I forgot to thank Lori for this post. Very encouraging, something I really need right now. I will print off and keep at my desk when I feel discouraged, which is usually everyday I walk into my office.

  • You’re most welcome! I’m glad this was helpful to you. =)


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    Good article, Thanks!

  • Jan

    Though I commend the suggestions in the article, sometimes under extreme pressure, it’s almost impossible to execute. And your method of not caring when others treat you unfairly (even if it happened in the past) I think, is exactly why there are so many heartless people out there. No one reprimands them for their actions. And because they feel they can get away easily with doing wrong to others, they keep doing it again and again… So the weak, the wronged, the helpless in essence are doomed. This cycle repeats. Because no one condemns the action of evil, heartless people but everyone condemns how the weak, mistreated and helpless reacts when treated unfairly. This is really sad.

  • Alejandro Simkievich

    when you are wrong, seek justice. Force the hand of those who wronged you if they will not voluntarily amend the situation. Do not desist, even vengeance is preferable to hurting yourself. Resignation is the worst of all possible choices.

  • BigHenFor

    Hmm… Justice and fairness are human concerns, and don’t exist in nature. Such ideas are the result of our social programming, and when the values of the society around us inevitably change, as they always do, we may benefit or we may not. So notions of justice and fairness are frankly illusions. Rudyard Kipling suggested as such when he described in his poem “If” both Success and Failure as “imposters”. So, what can we do? I would suggest that we focus on relieving the suffering of ourselves and others as best we can each day, by any means possible. Victor Frankl I suggest has a more useful perspective. His experiences in the Nazi death camps during World War II offer some insight into dealing with a world where justice and fairness are absent but, where one can find meaning through choosing how to respond to circumstances. I would argue that this is more consistent with Buddha’s philosophy and more helpful.

  • Destiny Taylor

    I am being sued by an old apartment complex for a flood that happened. I mentioned it once to the front office. I have since then moved out. Two years later I am being sued. I feel it is unfair and have been looking for advice on how not to worry. This was something I mentioned and just left it alone. Thought it was something simple and decided I wasn’t going to keep calling the office for them to tell me the same thing. Now they are saying I’m responsible. I need advice on how to not think negative and worry myself to death. I keep trying to prepare for the outcome. I don’t know what that is but any advice on how to just accept it if I end up have to pay for a flood that happened when I wasn’t home? I just want advice on how to think if I have to pay for damages for three apartments. It’s not the money. It’s how they are pinning it on me. Any advice