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Starving, Excruciating, and Fair

Tracy and I have banned a few words from use by our three kids (12, 9, & 7) when describing their personal situation or present difficulty. In our household starving, excruciating, and the phrase “it is not fair” are not permitted.

Here is our thinking.

Starving — I’ve been around the world, and I have slept on a dirt floor of an orphanage with a group of beautiful children — looking into their eyes, I’ve seen starving. And while my little ones might find themselves hungry and we may eat a little later than usual sometimes, these fair skinned American kids do not know starving. And for that I’m grateful. But let us not forget those who are starving for real and reserve that word for them. And furthermore, let us give to a well-managed charity on behalf of children who are in need both in this country and abroad. They are precious, and it is our responsibility as a community to make sure they too are not starving.

Excruciating — A word literally created to describe the agony of crucifixion on the cross. Again, I know my kids have never suffered such pain. And while I understand falling into a cactus hurts and it is most certainly painful when you go down hard on a bicycle, I contend that in measure to the cross, it is nothing. For one, they will never find themselves in agony alone having been rejected by their father — I wouldn’t dream of it (although they usually just ask for their mother). And second, the pain — it just doesn’t come close.

And “it is not fair…” — Ah this little phrase — it has plagued kids and narcissistic business associates alike. Most of the time when we say this we are starting with the presupposition that we are the center of the universe and anything that happens to us against our will or standard is therefore out of balance, and thus not fair. But in reality, we are not at the center and life is not fair. And I’ll tell you what else is not fair — a guy named Jesus, who is the center of the universe, literally starving himself in the desert as he began his ministry headed straight for a truly excruciating experience on the cross for something he didn’t do. That’s not fair. 

Look, I get it. I know what you might be thinking… and I’ll give you a quick tip I’ve learned before I go any further… Don’t start here with the kids (or anyone for that matter). Show a little empathy first and let them be heard — but with loving parenting and a gentle well-timed reminder, these simple truths can actually help bring about healing and perspective. The message here starts and ends with love and grace.

Life is not fair. Period. In fact, it is anything but fair. M. Scott Peck said it best in the opening chapter of his book The Road Less Traveled, published in 1978 when he said: “Life is difficult.” Dr. Peck goes on to explain “This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult once we truly understand and accept it then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.

So true. And being more clearly realized as my hair turns distinctively grayer.

The fact is we are not at the center of the universe. And bad things happen to really good people. And it is not fair. Or right. But it is what it is.

A rich life is well worth the cost of living. 

In my personal journey, I know I did not fully appreciate a warm and vivid sunrise until I experienced extremely dark cold nights. And I only began to obtain and enjoy true love and togetherness after suffering real loneliness and detachment. And I only received God’s grace and mercy after having been crushed by His law and my inability to keep it.

For truly we only experience the richness of love and the sweetness of life when we have also moaned the agony of death. That is life and actually living — and honestly, I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Life is hard. Life is good.


James Martin

I’m an innovative business strategist and leader who combines over two decades of experience providing technical consultation, human resource management, contract negotiations, new business development, and system integration management to lead start-up, turnaround and high-growth organizations through explosive market growth and unprecedented profitability.

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    Great article. When my kids say something is not fair then I ride that wave. I tell them they are correct and ask them what are they going to do about it. More often than not it leads to an awesome conversation.


    […] will prevail. And we hope it does. But it might not — at least in an NM court. I mean, life is not fair and bad things happen to good people. But in the end, even if the very end, final judgment will be pronounced and consequences will be […]

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