Because of my current health situation I have been told by so many people “Oh I am so sorry, that’s so horrible, I can’t complain about my life now, you have it way worse then I do”. This makes me think to myself, can suffering really be measured? It may be true that there is always going to be someone else out there who has it “worse” then you, thats life, but, I think when you look at it from that perspective you should be using that statement as a means of controlling your own complaining, not as a means of belittling your suffering because in reality, what defines someone as really being “worse off?
What do I mean you may ask? Well I always try to explain this and I always fail to do so properly, so let me try to put it into words that actually make sense. Keep in mind that when I refer to suffering, I am referring to the mental and emotional well being of an individual, not their life situation. For example, lets say a man was born into wealth and lived his life getting everything he ever wanted or needed handed to him. Sure he is in a good life situation, one of which he has nothing to complain about, but maybe he has never had a true friend, maybe he is lonely, and therefore, suffering emotionally.
Lets flip that scenario and look at the other end of this spectrum. We are now looking at a man who was born without a supportive family, no money, barely any food, etc. A horrible living situation providing every reason to complain. Though his life situations is poor, this man is actually much happier then the rich man because he has close friends, he knows how to appreciate the little joys in life, he is mentally and emotionally much healthier. He may be able to recognize that his living situation is poor but he never lived with wealth, he isn’t emotionally8 missing out on anything because he has never had it to loose it.
These are two really bad examples I am using to make my point, but what is important s that you understand the concept of this contrast so my next example will make more sense. When I ask myself, “can suffering be measured” what I am referring to is the idea that we as individuals can only compare our level of suffering to what we have felt throughout our lives.
So now, my second example, physical pain. Pain is pain wether it be physical or emotional, therefore, can physical pain me measured and compared to others? No, we only know how to compare our pain to the pain we have previously felt in life. A small child who gives themselves a paper-cut might consider that to be the most painful thing in the world. But to a 40 year old construction worker that paper cut is nothing because he has experienced much worse in his own life, but at that point, is it fair for the construction worker to tell the child they can’t complain, that it’s not that bad, well, in my opinion, no. To that child, that paper-cut is something worth complaining about, its the worse thing that child has ever experienced, Sure others have endured far greater pains but that child has no means of comparing their pain to that of the worlds worst tortures. He can only compare his pain to any previous pain he has felt in his life.
Now, think about that concept and apply it to emotional pain, mental well being. You may see an individual stressing out or breaking down over something you think is stupid but don’t be so quick to judge because maybe what ever situation is breaking them apart is the worst situation they have ever been in, it seams stupid to you because you may have experienced something of that magnitude or worse but again, maybe they haven’t just like the small child’s paper-cut.
So when people tell me that they can’t complain because I obviously have it way worse then them I say “No”, in fact, I encourage them to complain because yes, my situation is not a pleasant one, but I have no right to use my situation to belittle the pain another individual may be feeling because as I said before, you can only measure your level of suffering based on what you have personally felt throughout your life.
Now though I sarcastically encourage people to go ahead and complain in front of me I am not saying that this concept is an excuse to freely complain about everything, because you should still bare mind that your situation could always be worse, I am simply saying that it is ok to feel the pain you are feeling, that you shouldn’t belittle your emotions because someone just so happens to have a worse situation then you do. Like pain, emotions are emotions and you are going to feel them regardless of logic and reason, what is important in my opinion is the ability to identify that yes, you are suffering, but it could be worse, it is important to be grateful that your situation is not as bad as it could be even though to you, it is horrible, and feeling that way is ok.
I don’t complain that I have multiple sclerosis, I don’t feel bad for myself, instead, I am grateful that it is not worse because I couldx have cancer or AIDS but I don’t, and for that I am truly grateful. Of course, I will still inevitably experience different negative emotions regarding my MS but I think that it’s ok because for the most part, I know it could be way worse but luckily, it’s not so I don’t really see any point in complaining.