But it isn’t fair! 

I just got back from an amazing 3 week trip to Asia.  As I was digging through a very large stack of mail, I found a notice from the HOA.  A tenant at my rental property had the gall to leave his vehicle parked on the side of the street for an hour after he moved it out of the driveway so his wife could get out of the garage.  Some very diligent HOA board member witnessed this transgression, and the property manager sent me a picture, and a letter, reminding us all that no one is allowed to park on the street!

The HOA reminded me that I was responsible if my tenants don’t follow the rules, so I emailed the tenants telling them I got the letter and asking them to follow the rules so that we could avoid future unpleasant letters.

My tenant responded that it wasn’t fair.  He stated that he never parked on the street and he was ticketed the one time he did it.  He said there was another car that always parked on the street, and was in fact, parked on the street the same time his vehicle was, but that vehicle didn’t have a ticket on it.  He was incensed that this parking rule wasn’t being fairly enforced. He wanted more details so that he could prove he was unfairly targeted.

My question to you is, why does any of this matter?  In the last week I literally saw starving children. I saw people living in poverty, and people being happy with the little they have.  How can someone parking on the street warrant photos and letters and outrage?  Is there any good that can come of this?

Who knows what my tenant was hoping to get by sharing his story, but what he got was my take on fairness and responsibility.  I explained that he admitted he broke the rule and it was fair for him to be ticketed, because he broke the rule.  We can’t know if the other vehicle was ever ticketed, or what their story is, but it doesn’t matter, because fairness for this tenant only has to do with him and the rule he broke.

The idea of fairness is a fantasy, especially when there are multiple people involved.  No one is in the exact same situation, and no one sees the same situation the exact same way.  We are all blessed with our own misperceptions, courtesy of our mind.  Our mind categorizes what happens to us, compares it to our past, and decides how we should feel about it.  Worrying about fairness, or using it as justification, only spends time on things that don’t truly matter.  If you examine everything that happens to you as if it is a personal affront, then you spend a lot of time feeling victimized.  If you can find a way to depersonalize things that happen, then you can go through life with your self-esteem in tact because you don’t have to let things that happen say anything about who you are as a person.

If this tenant shifted his perspective he could have imagined that there was a power-hungry HOA member who was proud of themselves when they caught people parking on the street.  If he realized the ticket had nothing to do with him and was simply some HOA member doing their job to report vehicles parked on the street, then maybe he wouldn’t be so bothered.  If he could admit to himself that anytime he was breaking a rule, he was putting himself at risk for being caught, then maybe he wouldn’t care if any other vehicles were ticketed. If he came to any other conclusion than someone was unfairly trying to make him pay, then maybe this would have been much less of a big deal.

We are all tortured by our minds, until we decide to do something about it.  You can train your mind to work for, rather than against, you.  You can learn to take a step back from situations and see them with a clear perspective.  So, the next time something upsets you, take a minute, and see if you can shift your perspective and see things differently.