My Pain’s Worse Than Yours

Everybody’s got a story.

As I listen to reader reactions to Relentless Grace, I’m more convinced than ever of this truth: everybody’s got a story.

Some stories are dramatic, tragic, and devastating. Thankfully, many are not. But each individual has traveled a road that at some point contained obstacles and challenges.

A common statement goes something like, “I’m kind of embarrassed to tell you my troubles. They’re nothing like the struggles you’ve experienced.” We seem to compare our trials and draw some sort of line that determines whether a particular problem is worthy.

One of my friends has a saying, “Everyone’s worst is their worst.” I’m certainly glad that most folks don’t experience life-long paralysis, but comparison to another person’s misfortune in no way diminishes our own pain. In frequent visits to rehab centers I’ve seen many people with far more serious physical issues that my own. I’m thankful for my abilities and I grieve for those less fortunate, but none of that impacts my pain or theirs. 

I’ve been thinking lately about The Story of the Jar, and I think its lessons impact this issue. I think that “comparing stories” fills the jar with sand. As I waste my time and effort with meaningless comparison, I crowd out much more essential “big rocks.”

Everybody’s got a story, and the very last thing they need from me is judgement and comparison to my own experience. When another person shares their story, they mostly need my attention. I need to listen with love, accept without judgement, and offer compassion without comparison. Those are the big rocks that need space in the jar, the things that enhance relationship.

And to borrow from the Apostle Paul’s words, “The greatest of these is love.”

Question: How does comparing get in the way of listening for you?

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