Comparing struggles…not helpful

Busy weeks.

Hectic days.

No time for ourselves.

We hockey/soccer/working/stay-at-home/cheer/piano/ballet/whatever moms seem to take  a strange sense of pride in this phenomenon. At soccer practice, we chat with the other moms about how we have no time to prepare healthy meals. We commiserate on Facebook about not getting enough sleep. We exchange stories about babies waking us up, worries keeping us up, and prices going up.

What is it about “problems” that makes us want to “one-up” each other? I remember having a friend in high school who did this all the time. If I said “Ugh, I have sooo much homework tonight!” she would respond “Oh, that’s nothing. Listen to what I have to do…”

Here’s the thing:

We all have problems. We all have struggles, issues, fears, and challenges.

While it is natural to compare your challenges to mine, it is not helpful or healthy.

I remember living in Germany about ten years ago. A friend of mine ended up having a stillborn baby. It was devastating to everyone who knew her. We were all just heartbroken and wrung our hands not knowing what to do to help her other than bring meals and cry with her.

A few months later, I had the 4th (or maybe it was the 5th…I honestly can’t remember) of my 6 miscarriages. Of course, I was saddened and heartbroken by this loss, but I kept comparing my loss to my friend’s. This was not a healthy thing. Every time I felt a bit sad, I told myself to “knock it off” and that it could be “so much worse.”

I was talking to an older lady in my church prayer group at the time. She asked how I was doing. I told her I was sad, but that I knew I shouldn’t be as sad as I was. A miscarriage at 8 weeks was “nothing” compared to the devastation my friend had experienced. This older woman looked me in the eye and stated “So what? YOUR pain is YOUR pain. Don’t compare it to anyone else’s.”

I went home that night, cried, and began to heal.

This lady’s words have stuck with me. We do not get to judge someone else’s pain. As a matter of fact, when we try to compare problems, we often keep others from taking the next step toward healing and growing.

I would ask that the next time someone tells you she is struggling (or even just makes a sarcastic comment about how busy her life is), take a minute to listen. By comparing and one-upping, we continue a cycle of negativity. Rather than offering up an example of how hard your own life is, maybe just say “Oh my, that does sound like a challenge. Can I bring you dinner tonight to take something off your plate?”

This can stop negativity in its tracks and keep us focused on building up each other as people.

And after all, isn’t this what we are secretly asking for when we share our struggles?

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