Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Trying to Come in Last

Life is rough. We all suffer. People love us, people hurt us. People come and go in our lives. Sometimes they move away, either physically or emotionally. Sometimes they die. Death is crummy. (In case you wanted to know my stance on the matter, there it is.) We all have bad times.

But mine are worse.

(Well, not really.)

Have you ever been in a conversation with someone, and you're telling them something deeply personal and heavy—something you're really struggling with—and instead of empathy or comfort, they come back with, "Oh, but that's not as bad as ____________?" Not as bad as something they've been through. Not as bad as one of their friends has been through. Not as bad as some random thing halfway around the globe that they read in Weekly World News. You don't have it rough at all, in fact, so you should quit your whining.

Not. Helpful.

Unfortunately, I think I've been on both sides of that scenario. I don't intend to do it. Sometimes I just want to share in an "I know how you're feeling" kind of way, but it comes off in an "I've got one-up on you" kind of way. It's not intentional. I just don't know how to stop talking sometimes.

Shocking, I know.

I have a wonderful sister. My wonderful sister has wonderful twin girls who are possibly the most beautiful little girls I've ever known. When I first had my son, I felt like I couldn't talk to my sister about parenting. Any time I had a complaint about life as a new mom, my sister said, "Imagine that times two!" 

Not. Helpful.

She meant well. She was trying to encourage me with the understanding that what I'm doing has been done before, and that some people have to do it with two. It's the only parenting she's ever known. I know she struggled figuring out how to take care of two at once. She filled notebook after notebook with every time either girl ate or had a diaper change. She had to learn how to give each one the attention they needed, a challenge I'm sure has only grown now that they're older and have different interests. I don't even know how she carried two of them when she was pregnant! I mean, she's tiny! My sister is a Super Mom!

Of course my problems are going to seem insignificant next to all of that.

What I've realized is that my sister and I have different lives. She had twins; I'm having one at a time. She had to figure out how to take care of two kids the same age. I'm going to have to figure out how to take care of two kids several years apart (when we do have a next kid). Each has its own challenges. One isn't better than the other; it's just how things are. We each have our own experiences. And, being moms, we only get those experiences by figuring things out and living them ourselves.

Your experiences are valid. Things that are difficult don't suddenly become easier with the knowledge that someone else had it worse. Actually, that information just tends to bum me out. 

"Oh, you mean it can get worse than this? Fantastic."

The best thing you can do when people choose to talk to you about something difficult is to just listen. Don't try to one-up them. Don't try to find a worse scenario to make them feel better (it doesn't work, anyway). Listen to them. Pray for them. Be grateful that they've chosen to share their lives with you.

And if you don't want someone to talk to, but you do want someone to pray for you, e-mail me at I'll be your prayer warrior!


  1. Very well said. Sad to say I was a twin mom saying I had it harder at one time. When I had my 3rd and a friend had her 2nd, I realized that she was going through the same adjustments I was, just I'm a different way. It gave me a lot of perspective. No one likes a one upper!

  2. Great post sister! I have always heard that you should never underestimate or downplay another person's pain. (I learned this because mostly I was on the receiving end of the stick) A person's pain is their pain, nothing can be taken to or added to it. Their feelings are real . . . if it is real to them, it is their reality. Being on the wrong end of the stick on that has made me the empathetic person I am today. I'm thankful for that because I can embrace people with the love of Christ. Thank you for this reminder today!

  3. I just stumbled upon your blog through twitter, and was struck by this post. Thank you for writing it with such honesty. I agree so strongly that pain is pain, challenge is challenge. I will spare you the details, but I am a bereaved parent, and I feel awful when people feel like they can't share parenting difficulties with me because "I have it so much worse." That doesn't make me feel like a normal parent, and I want so badly to feel normal.

    This post is like the companion post to a post did on my blog a few weeks ago.

  4. Pain is pain – whether it’s from puppy love – or an adult disaster. It’s the same thing. The same crying. The same sadness – just degree and circumstance differ.

    As a man I always want to rush in with a solution – and I’m learning to just listen and “feel”.

    I felt your words today.

    God Bless and Keep You and Yours

  5. I think too often I do the whole "trying to relate" thing and probably have irritated a few people a time or two. You are so right. I went through some stuff as a teenager and one of my friends would always say "It could be worse." Well, DUH! It can ALWAYS be worse! How does that help!? Thanks for a(nother) great post, sister!

  6. Oh, my friend, this is so true! We ALL have struggles. It's no fair when someone tries to say that their problems are worse than ours. Because we still hurt.

  7. When I was pregnant for the very first time, we had several shaky weeks not knowing if I could carry the baby, or if I would lose it. It was the hardest experience of my life. When I finally miscarried, I had to deal with well-meaning but cutting comments like:'Well, at least you know you can get pregnant." Or "I had three miscarriages and I have three healthy kids now..." I would say that there were two things that I walked away from the situation with: a deeper understanding of God and how His Spirit moves and works in our hearts in our deepest time of need


    What not to say when people are hurting!

    Sometimes there are no words better than "I am so sorry for what you are going through." I am thankful for that lesson.

  8. And, you know, I've said those kinds of things with a "silver lining" lilt in my voice before. Now I've realized that it's not comforting so much as painful and annoying. I'm learning to just listen and hug and pray!

  9. If this isn't the most uplifting post I've seen in weeks.

    How wonderful of you, to offer prayer.

    Truly uplifting to see this focus away from yourself on a blog, You made me smile.

    And,yes, could you pls pray for my 2 friends that are going through a difficult time with depression right now.

    Thank you, so very much.

  10. You've got it Empress! Depression is rough---been there myself. I'll put them on my prayer list.


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