Comparison Consolation

Few are those who see with their own eyes and feel with their own hearts.  ~Albert Einstein

When the going gets tough, the tough look around and compare themselves to others.

I think I have that right, don’t I? Isn’t that what we hear? You think you’ve got it bad…. The sentence of exhortation that precedes the comparing of your (let’s keep it in perspective here) minor difficulties, to some unspeakable woes of another. I call it comparison consolation. Look around. Someone else always has it worse than you.

I you’re sick, someone is sicker; if you’re sad, someone is sadder; if you’re poor, someone is poorer. And that’s true.

But where’s the comfort in that? Am I truly supposed to feel happier/better/more grateful at the cost of someone else suffering? It’s a such a time-worn way of minimizing another’s pain, of minimizing our own, that the dysfunction of it seems almost Godly.

When Jesus said, Come to me all you folks who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest…He didn’t add the disclaimer, Unless,of course, someone is wearier or their burden is heavier. There are no caveats. He just says I know you’re weary, come and rest.

Author: Debbie

A former counselor and public speaker, I'm grateful for many, many things - God's grace most of all!

36 thoughts on “Comparison Consolation”

  1. Great post, as usual.
    This one reminded me of a song by Nicole Nordiman, Be Real. One line says, “Love a little more, ‘cuz everybody’s broken.” It is true. We all are individually, in our own ways, somehow broken.

    1. hello katharine! It’s true, we’re all broken in various stages of mending. Hopefully, as we remember that (as I remember that) grace will flow more generously and freely.
      Thank you for being here, my friend,
      ~ Debbie

    1. Hello Paul!
      OK, I’m pretty sure this is the first time anyone’s ever quoted Madia here! 😀
      Thank you for sharing your humor and your kind words!
      ~ Debbie

  2. Wow. A lot of comments on this one…That was very profound, Debbie! I don’t necessarily compare my trials to those of others, but I do catch myself saying, “It could always be worse.” But I only say it for me, because I don’t know how serious someone else’s trial is to them. I’ve also looked at others’ trials with their autistic children and thought to myself, “We don’t have it so bad, do we?” But you are oh, so right about the words of Jesus. There are no disclaimers in that invitation. If you are weary…come. If your burdens are heavy for YOU…come. Don’t worry about whether or not someone else could carry your burden with no problem. Don’t take it to them…take it to Jesus! Thank you for those thoughts, Debbie.

    1. Jeff – you summarized my heart here so well – “Don’t worry about whether or not someone else could carry your burden with no problem” – Yes, that’s it! Thanks and it’s always a joy to see you in Feb. or March or any month! 😉
      ~ Debbie

  3. Great post Debbie. Others suffering tends to not make a big impact when one can’t see past the pain one is experiencing. Comparison helps not at all. Helping someone else in some way…ahhh now that helps!

  4. Debbie,

    Wow! THIS is something I ponder while raising a child. I want him to know that, as Heidi points out, his pain IS HIS PAIN. It is real and as his mom I want to help lessen it and/or help him learn to cope with it.

    I had to learn to acknowledge my pain. I grew up with a father who brought home hitchhikers down on their luck and kids who were in really bad situations. I admired that AND he would say, “you girls are tough. you can handle this ________” well, I was NOT tough. That whole be tough thing led me to self medicate my very real pain.

    all that being said…

    I am distraught at what I see happening in popular culture; on TV, in music, in kids conversations. This whole idea of ‘dissing’ people for fun and laughter, laughing at anothers misfortune is ‘cool’ now; more so than when I was a kid. Kids wear really disrespectful tee shirts that say really mean stuff. They can buy these shirts ANYWHERE and their parents let them wear them. It makes me sad.

    If someone is in pain, I want my son to notice and if he can, I want him to do his best to help alleviate that pain. I do NOT want him to join in this culture of ridicule. I have had kids in cars laugh at homeless guys in our city. I DO NOT put up with it and I try to get them to empathize. It really unnerves me as a women to see this generation of teens SO desensitized to the pain of others. computer games do not help.

    OK I am ranting! This is a VERY important issue: Are we ok if someone is Sicker? No. I wish I could see this in popular culture.

    I am getting old. I also find myself saying “they just don’t make music like this anymore!”

    Yikes.

    XO Jen

    1. Jen – I was fairly young (23 and 25) by today’s standards, when I had my kids so it feels like a lifetime ago – and in many ways, it was.
      It does seem to me like meanness is, if not more abundant, certainly encouraged and flaunted everywhere: TV, t-shirts, FB, Twitter, music etc…Bullying and belittling abound. Sadly this is true within the ‘religious community’ as well.

      I think it takes a fair amount of being comfortable in your own skin (and aren’t those who are a joy!) to make others comfortable in theirs.

      You’re giving your son a great gift by helping him be OK with who he is. It’s from that ease with himself, that he’ll be able to extend the greatest amount of compassion to others.

      Kind of off topic here, but while we’re being old and ranting 😉 … I also think there are deeply compassionate people who care but fail to show it – or show up, because they’re self-conscious and have fallen into the comparison trap. While their hearts may be tender, they fail to act.

      Thank you for jumping right on this!
      peace and grace to you, Jen.
      ~ Debbie

  5. Debbie– Do you remember when this first occurred to you? I’d love to hear the context. I never thought that my pain could be measured by the relative standard that comparison brings. It just doesn’t float with me.

    My pain is not lessened by comparison games.I believe it’s healthy to acknowledge my feelings. It’s what I do next that matters. Do I dive into self-pity or do I go to Him and let Him hold me under his wing a bit. Really, it’s about me and trust–or not.

    I minimize when I don’t know how to face something or I’m uncomfortable with another person’s emotional reaction or circumstances…so not helpful and also dangerously unhealthy.

    1. Heidi – Good question.
      I can’t remember NOT thinking that way.
      Maybe it’s because there was a great deal of physical and emotional pain in my home from when I was around 7 on.
      I’m not sure if the message was spelled out, but it was lived out: Look around you, everyone is hurting/dying/suffering, so don’t complain about your insignificant pain.

      I took that message so deeply to heart, I couldn’t even tell my doctor any symptoms I had without apologizing for complaining.

      In my life, personally, comparison consolation isn’t something I’ve done much as a way of attempting to comfort others, but I have shredded myself with it.
      It’s still really difficult for me to state a simple fact like: I have a headache, or my finances are pretty thin without immediately apologizing because there are after all, ‘men without feet’.
      Still working on this one. 😉
      ~ Debbie

  6. Hi Debbie…. yes, comparisons… something I have given some focus to lately. Good point about it almost feeling selfish to essentialy ‘use’ someone for their greater pain.

    I wonder if one of the intents of comparison consolation is to stop the down-draft of self-pity. Speaking for myself, I find self-pity a far more powerful, crippling, covert, and fast-acting habit than we typically recognize it to be.

    Maybe there is partial value in comparison consolation, but it is not complete. It is not the final solution for pain, sadness, illness, etc. Maybe the final solution is what Jesus taught…. come to me.

    Another thought comes to mind. What if I am the person being compared to? What if I am the person of the lower standing, greater pain, more disasterous life. How would I feel knowing I am tought of as pathetic? Would that help me? No. Would it even be accurate? Maybe not.

    For example, I live in a much smaller house than I did pre-divorce and addiction. It was somewhat of a perfect storm of events. I was forced to sell my house in a divorce settlement. I had turned to drugs to deal with my pain. After the house sold, real estate shot sky high in our area and remained there. I lost a lot of money in addiction and costs of divorce. I now live in a smaller house. Should someone look at me and say, “Poor Chaz. I thought I had a small house but look at his”?

    No! Wrong! I am a blessed man! This is a blessed house! I am blessed for having the privelege of losing so much and then being chosen to for a journey back! This house has love. A family that is functioning lives here! My step kids see their Mom being loved and cared for. I love them and they love me. We talk, laugh, help each other, eat well. Our bills are paid and we are warm and dry.

    So I have fewer square feet than I used to…. so what! If someone were to use me as their comparison consolation they would miss the point! I am so grateful for the live I have and the home I have. I have nothing to be pitied for.

    Comparisons can be a dangerous thing. They can be an irrelevant thing. I think they should be used cautiously and sparinly.

    Great post to reflect on.

    Ciao.

    Chaz

    1. Chaz-
      You make an excellent point about not wanting to be the one pitied. It’s like when the teacher would single out someone in class and ‘make an example’ out of him/her. It’s so both arrogant and presumptuous to think someone who has less, is less – or is in any way less happy.

      I think the intent of comparison consolation is to help others – or ourselves- “put things in perspective”.

      You know that proverb (attributed as Indian, Chinese, Jewish, Persian etc…)
      “I cried because I had no shoes, until I met a man who had no feet”
      How long will that FEELING carry someone.
      Eventually the image of the man with no feet fades, and once again, we see our own naked feet – blistering in the sun or freezing in the cold.

      Pain is pain. It doesn’t conform itself to a sliding scale, any more than sin does.

      I’m 100% in favor of tender compassion, but I think comparison is about as far from compassion as we can get.
      When I compare myself to another, for any reason, my focus, ultimately it on me.

      Thanks for adding your thoughtful insights once again, Chaz.
      ~ Debbie

  7. Oh, Debbie–this is GOOD, as usual. How did such a young sister become so wise, I wonder…hmmmm. Thank you so much. God bless you abundantly.

    1. Dear Caddo – For some, I think Wisdom is a gift. Then, there are those like me, who learn from doing most of it wrong first. 😉
      God bless you, too, my friend,
      ~ Debbie

  8. OK i know i’m burnt out because i’m crying.

    It is of no consolation to hear that someone is better off or worse off. Nothing is more Unhelpful.

    Oh Debbie. The fight is so long … and i’m feeling tired, judged, beaten a bit.

    I’m sick of the pep talks from the “positive thinkers” or the “go get ’ems” and “git off yer asses”.

    I was just thinking about the saying, “walking a mile in another (wo)man’s shoes” … and get back to me. Thanks for letting me release some real stuff … that is REAL to me and i know will be accepted with Grace here, love mel

    1. iamnotshe….I feel for you as one who has suffered much emotional distress. I guess that would be a lot of us. It came to mind as soon as I read this comment to post this next for you. I hope you read it, and it brings you a smile…

      Imagine

      Imagine life filled by the wonder of it all
      Life in all its’ beautiful, myriad colors
      Imagine for a moment… the colors are visible: deep, soft, brilliant, and bright

      Imagine the beauty of the earth we live on…can you see it?
      The mountains snow capped majesty
      The oceans tides, brought in on powerful, rolling waves of blue water
      A grassland plain…filled to overflowing with an abundance of wild flowers
      The mighty river…as it wends its’ way over rocky terrain, through twists and turns: it speaks in a voice all its’ own…do you hear it?

      Imagine the very breath of life with you: who can be against you?

      Imagine the sky above: vivid colors of many hues and tones.
      The brilliantly shining sun…like a promise of the tomorrow to be
      A blazing blue sky…the world before you
      The mornings’ sunrise…with its’ varied, breathtaking colors…a new days dawned…will you take hold of it?
      Evenings’ sunset…an astonishing display of color, a picture of indescribable beauty

      Imagine love, have you felt its’ tender touch upon you?
      Love…its’ amazing power to heal
      The expression of feeling…the ultimate gift within
      Love encourages…lifts us up to new heights of selflessness
      Love surrounds us…if we have the courage to give it
      Love will lead you out of the storm…and into the calm
      Love is a precious gift…will you embrace it?

      1. Thank you writinggomer. I did read, and i have saved it. I can read it again. Peace and thank you for you extra help!

    2. dear melis –
      You know how my mind works – always back to a song. I was thinking of Healer by Ten Shekel Shirt as I read your comment. It’s pretty old so you may not know it? I’ll make it your Sunday Song this week:
      “Healer heal me
      Savior save me
      Maker change me
      Lover love me
      ’cause I’m so tired of living for
      The kind of love
      That only comes and goes
      But your love
      Your love lasts forever”

      I know you’re weary. You’re running the good race, but even seasoned runners can get a catch in their sides. You’re loved and cherished, because of, not in spite of, who you are.
      Praying for you’re aching heart, mel.
      love and peace to you,
      ~ Debbie

  9. Oh wow, gracious one! I want to stay here in this deep grace . . .just sink down in it. 😀 Thank you!!!! Love you!!!! – the other deb, going to Him without comparing first if I’m burdened enough . . .or asking anyone else what they think!

    1. I’m totally butting in here … just reaching out to Earth Angels … i knew the Debs would be here to Second the Grace, or would that be third? I fourth it oxoxox mel

    2. Dear friend – So heartfelt and pure – “going to Him without comparing first if I’m burden enough”. Amen!
      And thank you for adding not “asking anyone else what they think” – the hidden hole beneath the floorboard of comparison – APPROVAL.
      grace and joy to you, Deb,
      Debbie

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