Something you often hear motivational types talking about is the concept that, for almost everyone, whatever problem you have someone has it worse, and that if you could see things in those terms you’d realize that at least you have a chance to make things better for yourself and push forward.

In some respects that’s absolutely true. How can one compare losing their cat to someone who’s losing their life, or was just in a critical accident and is physically scarred for life? How can they compare having their relationship end to a bombing that’s killed 30 people, or an airplane crash with no survivors, or an earthquake that has displaced thousands of people from their home?

How can they? It must be pretty easy because people do it every day, at any moment, and without any qualms whatsoever. The reality is that for almost every person, whatever trauma they’re dealing with at that moment is the worst thing in the world, and they could care less about someone else’s problems, no matter how much worse they might be.

Think about it. How many times have you heard a young person say “‘Blank’ just dumped me and I want to kill myself; it’s the worst day of my life!” And, if you try to offer comfort, it’s just not happening; they want to rant about this thing for weeks, unless someone else comes along to take their mind off it. And if you even try to bring up someone else’s problems, they don’t care. Sometimes they can’t even hear you, and other times they get mad, because at that moment it’s about them and their problem and nothing else matters.

I’m not usually the first person to negate someone else’s pain and suffering. I tend to understand that everyone hangs their hat on something they count on, and when that goes awry they might have a period of adjustment they need before they can get back on track. I’m also not someone who, long term, will allow everyone’s pain to remain equal.

For instance, if your pet passes away, I can feel your pain, but only for a couple of days. That might seem cruel but in my way of thinking it’s not on par with losing a family member or a best friend. True, some will say their pet was their best friend; sorry, but that’s a bit over the top. Pets are companions and they give great love while they’re around, but in the end they’re pets.

If your relationship ended I’ll feel your pain as well. If you were going out with someone for a relatively short period of time I might not feel it as long as I would if you were with someone for 10 years or more; yes, there is a time component built into the equation. If it wasn’t a true relationship I probably wouldn’t feel any pain whatsoever; that might seem cruel but just because one has feelings for someone that didn’t reciprocate it doesn’t mean it deserves my attention, even if it’s gotten yours.

Still, I recognize the paradigm that all of us on the outside of an issue deal with. After all, we go through it ourselves. Empathy is a powerful thing that humans rely on, whether it’s you or it’s someone you know. Recognizing that things will go in the right direction by offering an “I’m sorry for ‘whatever'” rather than “It wasn’t that big a deal so get over it” is what we’re about, or should be about. Allowing someone their moment, whether brief or long depending on what it is, doesn’t impede us one bit unless there’s something crucial that needs to be addressed. Even then, finding a way around that person for awhile is probably the smarter direction to go anyway.

Just remember this; no matter what your problem is, and no matter how much worse someone else’s problem is, my problem will always be worse… for now.

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