Our brokenness is always lived and experienced as highly personal, intimate and unique. I am deeply convinced that each human being suffers in a way no other human being suffers. No doubt, we can make comparisons; we can talk about more or less suffering, but, in the final analysis, your pain and my pain are so deeply personal that comparing them can bring scarcely any consolation or comfort. In fact, I am more grateful for a person who can acknowledge that I am very alone in my pain than for someone who tries to tell me that there are many others who have a similar or worse pain. ~ Henri Nouwen
Pain is so deeply private and intensely personal. How often have you shared just a bit of yours, only to have someone say: just be thankful that… No wonder we put barbed wire on the fences.
Not only do other people minimize our suffering, we do it to ourselves. Instead of just acknowledging it, we seem to think it’s more Godly to qualify it. We say things like: It’s my own fault for… or There are so many who have it so much worse… True or not, that doesn’t invalidate the pain.
I’m a temporary resident of Texas where it’s extremely hot. It hasn’t been under 100 degrees for almost 2 months. In the NE, rivers and towns and homes are flooding. It’s heartbreaking and horrible. Both are real. Does the disaster in the NE make it not hot in Texas?
Is there always someone whoose suffering is worse. Yes. Always. But we aren’t comparison shopping. We’re told to weep with those who weep. We’re never told to help them gain perspective or to evaluate the worthiness of their weeping.
We don’t need to qualify pain. We do need to stop minimizing each other’s suffering and start maximizing the comfort we give by the simple grace-filled act of offering compassion.