Jay Rifenbary

Jay Rifenbary's Blog

Unfairness - Perceived or Real

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Have you ever felt that life has treated you unfairly? What does that question mean? Is life unfair, and if so in what context? Is life unfair for those who have a physical or mental illness, who come from a broken home, who grow up in an impoverished, drug and crime ridden neighborhood as compared to those who do not? Is life unfair for those who do not come from a monetarily successful family as compared to those who do? Is life unfair for those who experience the doors of social and economic opportunity close on them, yet open for others? Throughout my life there have been times where I have questioned why certain things happen to certain people, including myself. Is it being in the right place at the right time, or possibly being in the wrong place at the wrong time? Is it fate, karma, coincidence, circumstance, society, who you know, some spiritual intervention, genetic makeup, or just the luck of the draw that determines what is considered fair or unfair? Is unfairness real, perceived, or both?

How emotionally distraught do you become when you perceive unfairness in your own life? How does that distress impact your attitude, drive, and resiliency to persevere through that perceived unfairness? Understanding the role of what you do and do not have control over is key to lessening the detrimental impact of perceived unfairness. There are many significant factors that have contributed to the formation of your life that you did not have control over. Your genes, parents, siblings, relatives, place of birth, the social and economic environment your were born into, having been a victim of abuse or nature's wrath are all examples of what you had no control over. However, to use what you had, or presently have no control over to justify unfairness in your life resulting in unhappiness, a lack of self-respect and a sense of failure is a choice. Why would you choose to allow what you do not have control over to override what you do have control over? You have control over your attitude, beliefs, behaviors, how you treat those you love and those who love you, and adhering to the core values that you wish to reflect your character. A meaningful life is not as much about the cards you are dealt, but rather how you decide to play your cards. To be optimistic in the face of adversity, to persevere in the face of self-doubt, and to maintain integrity in the face of unethical temptation are decisions to improve each hand your dealt and improve your chances of succeeding in your life's journey.

Real unfairness relates to the day-to-day treatment of others rather then the perceived unfairness of what your life started with or without; and working to eliminate that day-to-day unfairness is a cause worth fighting for. Unfairness is defined as, “not based on or behaving according to the principles of equality and justice: unkind, inconsiderate, or unreasonable.” Any discrimination of another based on race, greed, color, gender or sexual orientation is an example of real unfairness. A society that ignores such unfairness ignores the very potential of all humanity. Whether perceived or real it is still your decision to allow unfairness to be used as either a life long detriment, or a catalyst and motivator to persevere and live a productive and purposeful life. To think as a victim is to surrender your life to something or someone outside of yourself. To think as a winner is to internally believe you have the potential to overcome any obstacle or level of unfairness, perceived or real that would prevent you from becoming the best person you can be. To succumb to unfairness is to accept personal and professional defeat. It requires personal accountability to overcome the perceived unfairness of the things you did and do not have control over; and the courage of conviction to act in overcoming the real unfairness of how much of humanity is treated. To be fair is to be just, and to be just is to be fair. Let us all strive to focus on fairness toward one another, and less on using perceived unfairness as an excuse not to live a fulfilled and meaningful life.



Gossip vs. Opinion Is a Fine Line

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We have all found ourselves in situations where discussing others is a dominant topic of conversation. Many times it is challenging to distinguish between gossip and the offering of a constructive opinion or observation about another individual's behavior. An initial awareness of the reason for the conversation is critical to that determination. If the conversation focuses on demeaning the individual rather than analyzing the outcome of that individual's behavior it is gossip, and degrades the credibility of those conversing. If the conversation focuses on a lesson learned from the behavior of another it is an opinion, and can be beneficial in stimulating further discussion and exposure to varying thoughts and ideas from others.

Gossip is defined as, "idle talk or rumor, especially about the personal and private affairs of others". Idle in the context of talk refers to conversation that is of no real worth, importance or significance. Opinion is defined as, "a belief or judgment that rests on grounds insufficient to produce complete certainty". Although an opinion may lack certainty, it is the basis for many discussions, and can lead toward further understanding about any issue or topic brought forward.

There is a direct correlation between personal insecurity and your susceptibility to gossip. The more insecure you are, the greater need to feel better about who you are. The easiest and most irresponsible way to achieve that is to point out the faults, mistakes, misbehaviors and perceived character flaws of another. How often to you regress and gossip about another, rather than offer a constructive opinion about another's behavior? What is the reason for your gossip? Is it to make you feel more important, righteous, or validate your own beliefs? How do you actually feel in the aftermath of gossiping? How proud could you possibly feel about your own integrity, professionalism and character when you have just undermined another person? How often do you unfairly judge an individual, when you may not understand what it is like to be in their shoes? For example, it is unfair to judge a homeless person when you have never been homeless. However, it is appropriate to offer an opinion about a harmful behavior of a homeless person, or of any person, if the behavior endangers others. It is understandable to associate behavior with one's character, but it is important to recognize that is not always accurate. Are all the behavioral mistakes you have made a direction reflection of the quality of your character? We all make mistakes, but it is the consistency and repetition of those mistakes that begin to align character with behavior. As the Greek philosopher Socrates said, “Strong minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, weak minds discuss people.”

Gossip is negative energy, wasted time, and does not contribute anything positive to your personal or professional development. Awareness is a start, but acting on that awareness is the key to eliminating the desire to gossip. Ask yourself these questions if you sense you may fall into the trap of gossiping. Is it necessary for me to gossip about this person, and what is the purpose in doing it? *What is achieved, and is there any positive benefit from degrading that person? *How does gossiping reflect my own character? *Is gossiping an honest reflection of the core values I believe to be important? Begin to answer those questions truthfully and you will be on your way to eliminating the desire or need to gossip. You will catch yourself short when you do, and will be proud that you were able to potentially formulate an opinion about a behavior rather than be emotionally judgmental and critical of another person and their character. To counter gossip is also an opportunity to take a higher path of ethical behavior, because you demonstrate that the degradation of another is counterproductive to lessons learned from analyzing a behavior. As Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius stated is his “Meditations”, “How much time he gains who does not look to see what his neighbor says or does or thinks, but only at what he does himself, to make it just and holy.”



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