You Can't Compare Hurts.
"Also, Tonya will be moving in August" the bad news casually dropped in the middle of our staff meeting. My eyes shot to Tonya who had pulled her bottom lip up to form a perfect flat crease of neither smile or frown and her eyes slightly saddened looked around the room. My eyes darted around the rest of the group who all had the "yeah, we already knew face." I should be excited for the new advances, but this was the third friend I had leaving in the past 2 months and almost all were a surprise...to me.
Maybe it's because all my friends are also pretty missional - which means we live with wide open hearts...and move a lot. This wasn't just Tonya or even Shannon and Benji. It was Jordan and Tannah and Ashley and Victor and Aldrin and Darrious and Sarah and Tacy and Meghan and.... the list goes on.
One of my empathetic, yet perhaps a little more jaded roommates, responded to my sharing that another friend was leaving with "I've had way more people leave and walk out on me...(then his list began)." Rather than empathize, it felt a lot more like him mocking my pain and one-upping it with a worse pain story. That's when I realized it.
You can't compare hurts.
Was his story worse? Absolutely. Did he have more people and closer people leave him? Yep. Did that mean my pain wasn't valid or any less real to me? Nope.
I'm a firm believer that everyone should go to a third world country for at least a week. The issues we deal with her are nothing compared to what is normal life for them. You come back with much more appreciation of how you live, and a much lower tolerance for unnecessary drama. But this is your experience of life being internally experienced and altered, it's not an external force dictating a darker world for you to adjust your pain.
I once heard a psychologist talk about how unvalidated pain is left as an open wound, potentially just stuffed down inside, until it's addressed. It can go on for years or decades causing you to compensate in irrational behaviors because your little boy or girl inside was never met at his or her point of pain. The internal limp continues until it's validated.
Some of us have had other people negate our pain and other of us do a great job of doing it ourselves. "Well, they've got it much worse than I do." "This is nothing compared to what they're going through." "Don't be such a wimp about this, it shouldn't matter - just move on." While that may be true for a bumped knee or an awkward glance, you never hear a gunshot wound victim say "Don't worry, it's not as bad as a heart attack or lost appendage, so I shouldn't need to go to the hospital." Pain is still pain. I'm not advocating you make every uneasy glance a full scale emergency, but if it caused you pain - it matters.
If you think "this shouldn't be bothering me this much" then it's probably a great topic of conversation with the Holy Spirit. "Why is this bothering me? What's the real problem here?" Often times an innocent interaction can rub on that open wound that was never addressed or met causing it to be a bigger deal than you expected.
The first thing we have to do is have compassion on ourselves. If you have trouble doing it, imagine it's someone else, or a 3 year old version of you. You wouldn't tell them to "toughen up." You'd pick them up, hold them, say "Wow, yeah, that would hurt, I'm sorry that happened to you." You'd rub the boo boo. You'd kiss it to make it better. You'd get them help if needed.
When we can validate that pain, we can heal the wound and we can live free. Comparing pain only devalues feelings and tells the heart it must compete for attention. You and I can both be hurt. At the same time. With different levels of pain. Both are valid. Both can be tended to. Your pain may need quicker attention, but I will also need to take care of mine. If it matters to you, it matters to God. If it matters to God, then that's enough for me to take note and give attention to. Your pain is valid. Your heart is worth the extra moments.