“Think you’re having a bad day? Watch this video of a 6 month old baby get his ear replaced.”
I found that article scrolling through my news feed. It really irked me. When did grief become a competition? When did our struggles turn from a burden we carry to a badge we wear proudly on our shirts? We go through crap, and it’s obviously much worse than anyone else. Right? Or if someone is complaining about something, we make sure we put them in their place. See, I can be an idiot sometimes. At school, occasionally, there’s mini competitions in conversations of who is the busiest. Especially in the beginning of the semester, and dang it sometimes I fall into the trap of responding to someone who just hashed out their schedule for me and I, like a jerk, responded: “that’s your busy day? that’s nothing compared to my busy day!” Comparison turns a group of young adults into a bunch of 6 year old kids at the lunch table. Arguing over who has the toughest life.
Children eating lunch:
Little boy: My goldfish died today.
Little girl: My great grandma died today!
Other little boy: Oh yeah? Well my papa died today.
And then as we get older, it’s not only about what happens to us, but what how much we are responsible for.
Middleschool kids at the lunch table:
Boy: This sucks. I have football practice after school every day, and I have to do chores at home.
Girl: oh Yeah? Well I’m in all advanced courses, orchestra, choir and newspaper! Plus, my mom’s sick so I have to do all the cooking this week.
And then, it’s what happens to us, what we are responsible for and how our problems compare with the world around us.
College students at lunch:
Girl: My boyfriend of 3 years broke up with me today. Didn’t even say why.
Other girl: Well at least, you’re not dying of AIDS like the kids in Africa. Get over it.
Boy: My dad’s sick of cancer. He might not make it.
Other boy: Well, my dad is dead. So, just be glad you’re dad’s still alive.
Other than all these situations taking place at lunch (I’m writing this and thinking about how hungry I am), the people in these conversations all lack one thing: Compassion. Instead, they use comparison. People use comparison as a club to beat each other up with. Think you got it bad? *swings club* Just think about someone worse off than you and be thankful, then you won’t have much to complain about. There’s two things when it comes to suffering and I think we get them mixed up a lot.
Mentality of suffering: People say “think” a lot when using comparison. And that’s just the thing. You know the saying, a picky eater at the dinner table and his mom turns to him and says “Now Johnny, think of all the hungry kids around the world who’d be lucky to have that.” Gratitude is a mentality. Someone might have a negative mindset, meaning it’s in the mind. We all have different perspectives of the world, of our own lives based on what we have seen and gone through. My band director has been an EMT for 22 years, and at the beginning of each year he tells us “Look, I’ve seen a lot of things in my life. My reaction to your crisis will likely not look like your reaction.” A war veteran has a different view of the world than a 14 year old girl. Why? Because they have lived through different things. We all experience and see the world through different eyes. And process it through our own past, and present. A person can be thankful that their life is not as bad as the others around them, but that does not change the fact that their life might be in crisis. Gratitude is important. But, someone will always be better off and worse off than you. So sometimes people get stuck. They don’t allow themselves to grieve because people keep telling them that they don’t have a right to. Only the people at the bottom of the totem pole have a right to be sad. Everyone else has to suck it up and keep moving. I want to challenge that. This whole “thinking” yourself out of a rough time.
Actuality of suffering: I started running this summer and as I was running I was thinking about how my mile run (which is really just a jog/walk) failed in comparison to the many who have completed half and whole marathons. I respect those people a lot. Their physical strength, mental stamina, work ethic. It’s incredible. But, as I ran that mile, knowing that people around the US could be running a marathon right at that moment did not make my mile run any easier for me physically. My heart still pounded as fast, I sweat a lot, I breathed heavily. What if someone told me “Hey Marlie, while you run, just imagine the runners who are running 2 miles, or 5 miles or 100 miles! Then you will no longer be tired at the end of your run!” Yet, knowing they are running a 5K does not make my mile run any easier. The same applies to grief. Understanding that people are suffering greater or less than me effects my mentality, my view of my suffering. It does not change my actual suffering. I still have to run, sweat, breathe, keep going. step after step. It’s like the kid in middle school from earlier, his dad was on death bed, and the other kid instead of having compassion, says well at least your dad is alive. Yeah, he can be grateful for his dad’s life, but he still has to spend long nights at the hospital, watching the dad he knew and loved have the life drain out of him. Some life to be thankful for, right?
Instead of comparison, instead of the “well at least…” or the “just be thankful you…” can we start having compassion for one another? We serve a very compassionate God. And if anyone suffered, it was Jesus. If anyone suffered, it was God. And He has compassion for us. When we come to God in prayer, lifting up our pains and sorrows, God does not point to the cross and says “I had it worse.” He points to the Cross and says “I understand.” He understands loss and grief. He understands us.
Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.–Ephesians 4:31-32