The truth is our suffering matters to no one. No one but ourselves and God. And no matter how bad I have it (or think I do) someone is always worse off than me.
It irks me the degree that some people (and I’ll be honest, most of them are women) go to “prove” or “argue” their suffering. Let me give you some examples.
Two military wives I know are also friends with each other. One is an Army Wife, one is a Marine Wife. While they’ve always enjoyed the friendly “Army/Marines” rivalry, during the last few years, they have taken it to unprecedented (and wrong) proportions. It all has to do with deployment. Marines are typically deployed seven months, Army one year. Typically, there are always some exceptions. When Marine Wife (who I’ll call MW) would be upset about something that normally wouldn’t have been a big deal except it happened during deployment when she really could use her husband, Army Wife (AW) would make a retort back about how well, MW’s husband would be back in seven months while AW had to go a whole year without hers. Then MW would, with hurt feelings, respond how her husband was in active combat while AW’s husband was in the heavily fortified Green Zone when he was in Afghanistan (he was often deployed other, less volatile places…Qatar, Kuwait…). And so it would go on and on. (For full disclosure, my brother serves in the US Marine Corps. His wife is not MW nor does she know this person and to my knowledge, my brother does not know her and husband either…it’s a big base.)
And here’s one from the autism world. Two moms I know have sons with autism. One has two sons the other one. All three boys have autism. Mom of Two (MOT) constantly lords her successes and struggles over MOO because she has two with autism not just one. MOO’s son however, is much lower functioning than either of MOT’s boys. So, the retorts are often hurt tirades of, “well, at least your boys can tell you what’s wrong…” I’ll leave it there.
Finally, a story from the fertility/infertility wing that illustrates my larger point. Mom of Many and Mom of None (MOM and MON) are mutual friends of mine and each other. MON has been on her infertility journey for seven years. She has good days and bad, like most, but when she lashes out, it is invariably because MOM has said something about how hard something is because she has multiple kids. To her credit, when MON lashes out at MOM, MOM is charitable instead of striking back. She always apologizes for her complaint and realizes not everyone is blessed to have her struggles and lets MON know she cannot imagine the pain she is enduring but understands it must be great.
Our suffering means nothing to others, unless we let them know their suffering matters to us. What if, instead of making their suffering a competition, when MW or AW was enduring hard times, the other person listened or empathized or asked how one could help the other? Why couldn’t the autism mommies share resources? Our human and sinful nature sometimes leads us to demand that we use the crosses we are carrying pridefully and it shouldn’t be so. Our crosses we bear in this world should lead us to look to Christ crucified and remember only He can lift our load. They also should remind us that our crosses were designed specifically for us to bear and other’s crosses should never be compared to our own. There is only one winner of the Olympics of Worldly Suffering. He died over 2000 years ago to save us from our sins. And He rose after three days to remind us the crosses of this world will help us, if borne correctly, to die into eternal life.