Have you ever been visiting with a friend, and you tell them your struggle that day or whatever is going on in your life? And you barely finish your sentence and they say, “Yeah well, wait until you hear what is going on in my life, you’ve got nothing on it!” Or even, “well you should be grateful you have that, this person over here doesn’t have that”.
How did that make you feel? Did it make you feel heard? Listened to? Cared for? Excited to talk to that person again?
I’ve actually done that many times, and you probably have too. It’s so easy to want to talk about our journey and our struggle and think that the other person doesn’t quite have it as bad as us. Or that someone else has is worse off. But let’s take notice. Let’s notice that we do that and take steps to stop.
When we shut someone down by basically saying what they are feeling or dealing with is nothing, we fail to grasp that they are a human feeling something. They are a human feeling pain or frustration, and if we just took the time to listen, ask questions, care for them, then we could talk about ourselves and share our journey as a way of supporting each other instead of this competition to who has it worse.
None of us get out of this life without trials or struggles, and the struggles we know are the struggles we know. Even as our life changes and we get older, and we have kids or we don’t, each stage is hard in it’s own way and it really is no use comparing. Your hard today is your hard today. Your friends hard today is your friends hard today. And when you can share the hard, you can equally rejoice in each others blessings.
The hardest thing I’ve ever gone through is different than your hardest thing you have ever gone through, but it is still your hardest thing. You hard is STILL VALID.
EMPATHY NOT SYMPATHY
Brene Brown has a good analogy about empathy and sympathy. Where someone is sitting down in a dark hole, and someone walks by and hollers down the hole, “hey hows it going down there, you doing okay? I’m so sorry you have to sit down there!”. And then another person walks by and climbs down the ladder, sits next to the person down there and just listens and trys to understand.
That is the difference between emathy and sympathy. Empathy is being heard, understood, cared for, sat with during the tough times. Sympathy is a “I’m so sorry for you” but move on to the next thing. What do you want when you are in a tough moment? Empathy or sympathy?
I had a friend going through some hard times right after I lost Aria, and I knew I could not be a support for her. I knew I couldn’t have the compassion for her that she needed, so I had to let her look for other support. I knew her struggles were real, her struggles were valid and I didn’t want to take that away from her, just because in those moments I could not be there.
I think it’s important to say, when I was newly grieving, I was not much support for anyone else. I needed so much support, and I was so grateful and blessed to have been given that support. And as life ebs and flows, I can now support my friends when they need it. I think sometimes our relationships can be different, where one is struggling in their life, and another is helping, and then it changes to the other way around. And the beauty of that is if you can help and be empathatic with others, hopefully that person can pay that forward, if not to you, then to someone else.
I’m not at all suggesting we should all sit in a pity party all the time and discuss our hardest things and why we have it so bad. I’m not trying to say that. But talking about your struggles helps you make sense of them, and get them outside of your head where you make them worse. Then you can start to pick up the pieces and figure out how to move forward with this difficult thing that has happened to you.
I’ve heard the saying “God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason”, I feel like I’m really bad at listening, but I’ve been making an effort to listen more. We all have a deep need to be heard. So let’s start paying attention, are we lifting and caring for our friends, or are you playing the comparison game and shutting them down? What steps can you take to remind yourself that everyone has their own version of hard, and it’s okay?