Not long ago, I had one of those extraordinary, deep, soul-stirring conversations with a friend. I don’t know if you’ve ever had one, but they are quite amazing. I was a gibbering mess of tears and snot and laughter for over an hour.
In that conversation, I shared about some things that had happened in my life, especially over the last several months.
There was a point when my friend filled the space of silence with the simple compassionate statement, “Wow, you’ve really had a rough go of it.”
I looked away in embarrassment as I worked to shrug off the declaration.
My thoughts immediately swirled to friends and acquaintances that have had way worse times than me. Surely my life is easy compared to theirs. It hasn’t been that rough for me.
Then my attention spun to the global perspective. I don’t want to be that person who bemoans the problems of my 1st world privileged life when so many people have so much less and have it so much harder than I do.
But there is a problem in that “perspective.” It means I am quick to discount my own struggles.
Like physical pain, ignoring emotional pain won’t make it go away. In fact, it actually risks making it worse. It would be a ridiculous notion to pretend nothing has to be done to treat a deep cut because it’s not as bad as cancer. That train of thought would lead to all sorts of infections and scars. Yet that’s the outlook we frequently take with our non-physical wounds.
I have heard it said that comparison is the thief of joy. We do something we feel good about, but then we see how much better someone else is at that thing than we are, and suddenly the sense of accomplishment disappears under the weight of “not good enough.”
I don’t think joy is the only thing comparison can be accused of stealing.
Comparison is the thief of healing.
Our pain is not defined by the experiences of others. Our pain is defined by our own feelings. If something hurts us, then it is painful. Period. End of story.
I had to make a conscious effort to accept my friend’s statement of empathy that day. Since the conversation, I’ve had to remind myself that it’s okay that things have been difficult for me. Even if someone else would have counted themselves lucky to be in my shoes, and handled it all with grace, that doesn’t change my experiences. I have suffered hurt. And I need to seek healing.
We are not weak when we get hurt while someone else seems to walk away unscathed. We are not weak when we struggle under the weight of something someone else seems to handle with ease. We are not weak when we accept statements of empathy when someone else seems so much more deserving of them than we do.
We are strong when we face our experiences. We are strong when we admit our hurt. We are strong when we accept help.
Let’s not let comparison rob us of our healing.
"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God." -2 Corinthians 1:3-4