I heard this great discussion this week on comparative suffering.
It got me thinking back to the beginning of the pandemic when I often heard and said things like I’m not sick so I can’t complain or I have a job so it could be worse.
And I get it.
We don’t want to sound ungrateful for all the things we have, especially in comparison to others who have lost so much. So we downplay our own bad stuff because we don’t think we have a right to it. We might even get frustrated with ourselves and wonder how we can feel bad when we have so much.
Well, of course, we don’t work that way.
Because even if we didn’t lose something tangible, we’ve all lost this year.
We may have lost a sense of security that we can stay relatively healthy doing everyday things. We may have lost a sense of trust that our leaders actually care about keeping us safe. We may have lost a sense of structure from the disruption of our normal routine.
But we’ve definitely lost the time before the pandemic.
Just like the Great Depression, or World War II, or 9/11, we will think of life before and after. Things have changed and some of them may stay changed. And we’re still going through it.
I think it’s important, as many of us are focused this week on what we’re thankful for to remember this. To remember that feeling what we need to feel does not mean we are any less grateful for what we have. It means we’re human.
It means we acknowledge that we all have this right to our humanity. That we don’t have to shove our struggles aside just because they don’t seem as justified as others’. That thankfulness is important to provide perspective, but the good things we have don’t ever erase the difficult things we experience.
Also remember, that compassion and kindness are not finite.
That being compassionate and kind to yourself by letting yourself feel your sadness and loss does not mean you have less for others. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Giving these things to yourself actually creates the capacity to feel them for others.
It’s from our struggles that we develop empathy.
It’s also just plain easier all the way around if we don’t struggle against the struggle. And I don’t know anyone who couldn’t use a bit more of that right now.
So give yourself permission to be kind, ok? My guess is that you’ll be thankful for it.