I have a lot of guilt issues. One of those issues is "how dare I feel so crappy when others have it so much worse than I do?"
But I have come to a conclusion. There is no universal scale of pain. There is no 1-100 scale set up by the world to determine how much pain a person is allowed to claim. Stub your toe? You can claim a 3. Your house burns down? You get to claim 50. Every person around you has died and you have no food, shelter, love, or anything else in life? You get to claim 98.
No, it doesn't work like that.
Every person gets their own person pain scale of 1-100. When you're little and life is generally pretty darned good, not getting a candy bar can really rate a solid 95. Why? Because that's what your pain scale is currently set at.
Years later, and you realize that things generally do go your way, then Suzy tells Dougie you like him and he replies by saying you're gross, well, that's another solid 95. The whole scale has reset to allow for new levels of pain.
And then later, when you experience the first death in your family, you've got a whole new level of pain to contend with and for that period of time, you're experiencing another 95. The Suzy told Dougie fiasco? On your new scale, that's now a 40 instead of being the 95 it used to be. But at the time you experienced it, it was just as painful as what you now define as a 95.
So as we get older, our scales get reset over and over again as we experience new levels of pain. Each time we get to a new level, it's the hardest thing we've ever gone through and we can't imagine anything worse.
And yet whenever we're going through our own personal hardest level of pain, someone is always there to tell us how someone else has things worse. And in the process of trying to cheer us up by telling us all of the things we do have in our lives, they actually make it worse because now we have to feel guilty for feeling so crappy about what we don't have.
Am I currently experiencing some crappiness? Yup, you betcha. And I'm unhappy about it, and it hurts, and I'm scared and freaking out.
Am I experiencing the same amount of crappiness that the people of Japan are currently experiencing? Hell no I'm not! I will concede that they are experiencing a level of loss, and fear, and general crappiness that hopefully I will never know.
But quite frankly, the fact that someone else has it worse than me doesn't make my own personal crappy any better. That's like saying the papercut on my finger doesn't hurt because someone else chopped their whole finger off. Guess what? It still hurts even if someone else is hurting more.
Why do people try to say you shouldn't feel bad because others have more reason to feel bad than you do? Have you ever seen people try to do the opposite of this? You shouldn't enjoy your new phone because your neighbor got a new car? Obviously they are happier than you so don't bother feeling happy.
Yes, I know there are stories that are much more heartbreaking than mine. They lost more children, at later gestation times, or have lost living children, or their partners have left them. I'm aware of this, and my heart does go out to those who've pain scales have reset to include levels of pain that I've personally never felt.
Perspective is a good thing to have. But when someone is genuinely hurting, if you want to make them feel better, perspective isn't going to help. Really, it's not.
It's ok to be sad. It's ok to be angry. It's ok to feel like everything is simply miserable. Just like you don't feel sad because Bill Gates has more money than you do, it's ok not to feel happy just because someone else has more misery than you do.
When I'm rolling my eyes at my kids teenage angst one day, remind me that I said this.