We’ve all experienced moments of feeling like our pain is being “put into perspective.”
Whether it comes from witnessing horrible tragedies on the news or walking with our friends through unimaginable circumstances, you’ve probably, like me, sighed in the heaviness of it all and said something along the lines of, “man, the stuff I go through is so petty in comparison to this.”
The sentiment is common.
For years, I’ve heard myself and other Christians make similar comments over and over again when discussing news stories, social injustices and the burdens of the poor and hurting.
This way of processing tragedy isn’t exactly wrong. There’s no denying God uses external tragedies to give us inner perspective. But pain is pain. And I have a hard time believing God ever intended for us to go so far as to let others’ pain shame us into believing our pain is a “petty” problem unworthy of God’s attention.
This idea came up last week when I got a call from my friend Jamie. I was telling him about the teen mom I mentor, Emilia, who had just opened up about years of sexual and physical abuse.
I was telling Jamie how petty the relational hardships I’d endured seemed in light of Emilia’s, how she’d really shifted my perspective, how I’d wasted so much time mourning heartache that wasn’t even close to what Emilia’s heartache must be like.
But before I could continue, he cut me off.
“Yeah, but that stuff matters too, Cadence.”
I paused. “Yeah, I know…”
Truthfully, I was kind of annoyed. Yeah, yeah I get it, my stuff matters but it doesn’t really matter. Not as much as Emilia’s stuff. I shouldn’t be mourning my stuff when there’s more important stuff to be mourning in the world.
Our conversation continued and I didn’t think much else about it.
But my friend’s words came back to haunt me a few days later. I got an email from an ex that was hard to swallow and as I started to tell myself you shouldn’t be upset about this, I immediately remembered my friends words: That stuff matters too.
All of a sudden those four words I’d found slightly annoying and uncomfortable a few days earlier felt like a breath of fresh air.
They actually felt true.
And even healing.
I slowly began realizing how years of belittling my pain in the face of others’ pain had only been filling me up with shame. You shouldn’t care so much about this. Just think of what so-and-so’s been through!
What my friend Jamie taught me in that moment, without realizing it, came directly from working with thousands of hurting people over the years who’d been held back from healing because they were carrying so much shame about their pain.
Your stuff matters too.
We need to stop shaming ourselves about our pain and instead acknowledge that we are all fragile humans who are trying to figure this life thing out. We need to remind one another our pain matters, even when it feels petty.
And especially when we’re tempted to compare and conceal it.
Let’s practice more compassion without comparison. Let’s gain more eternal perspective while giving ourselves permission to mourn our worldly losses.
Your pain is not a problem.