Everyday Awe

Comparison is the Thief of Healing

comparisonNot 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

  • Karen

    Well said Stephanie. I have a friend whose life is held together with safety pins (there’s been a lot of betrayal, financial problems and upheaval) and whenever she asks how I’m doing I feel GUILTY sharing my seemingly petty problems. In comparison, they seem so minor, but of course they aren’t to me! But I know she really cares and wants to know and it’s probably good for her to hear my heartaches and problems. Thanks for your always inspiring and thought-provoking posts. (And prayers for your heartaches.)

    • http://everydayawe.com/ Stephanie Spencer

      Thank you, Karen, for your prayers and for your encouragement.

      When one of my friends was going through something particularly terrible, she said it actually helped when I came to her with something myself. It helped her feel useful instead of just needy. And she cared and wanted to know. I hope you can find a good balance with your friend, too.

  • http://logicandimagination.wordpress.com/ Melody Harrison Hanson

    I so needed this today. Comparison is a thief. Thanks Steph.

    • http://everydayawe.com/ Stephanie Spencer

      I’m so glad it encouraged you today, Melody. I think it’s a reminder many of us need- on a regular basis!

  • Beth

    “Our pain is not defined by the experiences of others. Our pain is defined by our own feelings.” Grateful God led me to click on your link today. Good wisdom. Thanks for sharing.
    Blessings,
    Beth

    • http://everydayawe.com/ Stephanie Spencer

      I’m grateful you stopped by, Beth. I hope the post was something you found helpful.

  • Kathy

    This is really thought provoking. It is true that we often try to dismiss our problems when we compare to others but you’re right – there is usually no healing in dismissal. I do need to face this hurt as real pain and try to find healing. By the same token I think it can be helpful to try to keep a good perspective about the real gravity of our problems.

    • http://everydayawe.com/ Stephanie Spencer

      Thanks for the comment, Kathy. That is the trick, isn’t it: healthy perspective is a good thing. But how do we keep it without making it a comparison by which we dismiss our own pain? It’s a tricky balance to find.

  • http://jenniferclarktinker.wordpress.com/ Jennifer Clark Tinker

    I found this through Elizabeth Esther’s link-up and I’m so glad I did. Thank you for putting words to this. I especially appreciated this part:

    “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.”

  • http://hopefullyknown.com/ Tamara Rice

    OMG, like Jennifer I found this through Elizabeth Esther’s link-up and I’m so glad I did. What beautiful words and OH HOW I RELATE. Somehow we feel like it should help us to think when we have a hardship, “Well at least it’s not …” and yet it doesn’t. It doesn’t at all. And I recently thought about writing about this from the perspective of the other person–that you never try to help someone by comparing. But you’re so right that it’s just as unhealthy internally. Thank you for this. Beautiful!