Grief · Healing · On Coming Alive · On My Heart · Storytelling · Strength to Strength · Vulnerability

The Danger of “Not As Bad As…”

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The human journey is wracked with painful moments and painful seasons. I’ll define pain as: sickness, injury, betrayal, rejection, grief, frustration, confusion, anxiety, loss of any kind, upheaval, or unraveling. You get where I’m going here. Pain.

Every painful moment carries with it a unique capacity for growth and strength. We fall and yet we rise when we look deep enough to discover the beauty and strength of the spirit within us. It’s not about how quickly we fall and rise again, it’s about how we live and learn in the midst of it. And it goes without saying, no one asks for their brand of pain, no one would choose it, no want wants to live and learn this way, but it is part of the human existence.

I wrote on Facebook the other day after a really hard day,

“The same day can contain the incredibly beautiful and the incredibly hard. I have proof.

It’s what you do with the gift of GOOD and the gift of HARD that counts.”

Can we just stop right there and acknowledge that it is NOT easy. Just sit in that for a minute “the gift of hard.” I don’t even like my own words, but they came effortlessly from my soul. As effortlessly, as my unconscious mind reminding me to breathe.

One of the things that robs us of our moment to learn in the midst of the hard, is the fine art of comparison. We either magnify or minimize our pain when we throw out the “not as bad”. We turn pain comparison into some kind of greater than, less than, equal to math lesson.

There is danger in comparing this smorgasbord of pain.

Comparison of pain is a futile and demeaning activity. Comparing our current big pain to a previous pain of ours that was used to think was “big”. Comparing our pain to the pain of others, neither “mine is worse” nor “at least mine is not as bad as”, serve any value.

The comparison game tries either to validate how BIG our pain is, or makes a feeble attempt to blunt the intensity of our own pain. I have people write to me and say, “I know this isn’t as bad as what you’re experiencing but…..” and they then share their story and how my words have helped them. I am learning with all that I am, that the present moment (however small or grand) is what offers us the opportunity to live and grow and learn. Diminishing “my moment” because of a past moment or someone else’s grander moment does nothing but rob me of my own experience. And treating your moment as “less than” is simply wrong.

Someone may write to me “I lost my grandmother, I’ve never lost anyone before (I know it’s not the same as what you’re walking through, I know it’s not as bad) but……” STOP!

Oh friend, your moment is your moment, it is as big as it needs to be for YOU in your moment in the arena.

I’m writing for YOU. You who lost your grandmother, you who is healing from abuse, you who has faced painful rejection, you who is watching a family member under the crippling grip of Alzheimer’s disease, you who is battling chronic disease, you who sits at the bedside of your child praying for a miracle. You in the middle of YOUR pain. I’m writing for you.

This is not a competition over whose story has the hardest “in the arena” moment, as Brené Brown calls it.

When you write to me with words like:

“I appreciate your posts so much. I have not gone through the death of a child, and I can’t even possibly imagine the depth of pain you feel, but each post you write, I can relate on a different level…..the words you write resonate with me and offer me guidance and comfort. I appreciate you being so open. You are touching more audiences than you realize.” -anonymous

“Mattie Loux had an outstanding destiny….one part of his legacy in his short life was provoking me to find joy during a joy-less time.” – anonymous

“I just wanted to thank you for living the last few years very open and allowing the world to see your family’s story. (she goes on to share some personal losses in her life) …..grief has been so foreign to me. I’ve been so grateful for the things you have written, they have given me a foundation to respond to grief and the pain that others walk through in the midst of it. It’s given me confidence in being there for them, not feeling like I need to run away from their pain. I’ve had a couple people say things like, ‘You knew how to be there for our family when we didn’t know what we needed”…. and its not because I’ve gone through something like that before, but it was honestly because I read what you had written and decided to take a chance and try to love on them in those ways. So thank you. Thank you for being vulnerable. Thank you for letting the online community in. Thank you for teaching us how to breath and live in the midst of pain.”-anonymous

We’re all on a journey, and if we are wise, we will become less afraid to share our story along the way. If we are all brave, we will consider opening our ears to hear the stories of others on the journey. There is much to be learned from our combined experiences. I’m sharing mine, and I have my ears opened to listen to yours.

Joseph Campbell says it this way:

“It is by going down into the abyss that we recover the treasures of life. Where you stumble, there lies your treasure.”

I have to believe this. I have to believe there is somewhere along this very broken path, a treasure waiting for me to uncover it. I’m in the abyss, I may as well be searching.

In Rising Strong, Brené Brown says:

“You may not have signed up for a hero’s journey, but the second you fell down, you got your butt kicked, suffered a disappointment, screwed up, or felt your heart break, it started. It doesn’t matter whether you are ready for an emotional adventure- hurt happens. And it happens to every single one of us. Without exception. The only decision we get to make is what role we’ll play in our own lives: Do we want to write the story or do we want to hand that power over to someone else? Choosing to write our own story means getting uncomfortable; it’s choosing courage over comfort.”

So friend, let’s stop with the “not as bad as” or “mine’s worse than” or “this isn’t really the same as”.  Let’s let it go. I’ve had plenty of hard along the way, enough to know that we get to fall and rise many times in this life, and it’s different each time.

“At least….” doesn’t serve my story or yours.
“It’s not as bad as….” doesn’t help you one bit.

“You either walk into your story and own your truth, or you live on the outside of your story hustling for worthiness.” – Brené  Brown “Rising Strong”

I’m living deep on the INSIDE of my story, writing my brave, daring ended with the way I choose to carry my heart. I invite you to join me.

Photo via VisualHunt

2 thoughts on “The Danger of “Not As Bad As…”

  1. I don’t think I can tell you how much I love this!
    I’ve grown so tired of the comparison game people play. We all hurt in some way, why compare it all the time? Realizing that has, I believe, helped me to be a more open person and more “there” for friends and others who are hurting. And then I’ve been on the other side of that, where I was told my pain wasn’t “as great” as someone else’s, because I’d only lost the one. Relationships are damaged greatly when we constantly play the comparison game.

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