Something has been bothering me this week. I'll preface this post by saying my thoughts and opinions will likely be unpopular and maybe even make you mad. If so, feel free to decide to move along or thoughtfully discuss. And I do mean thoughtfully.
Did you watch the super bowl? Did you enjoy the halftime show? Were you jumping up and down when Snoop Dog and Dr. Dre transitioned to 50 Cent hanging upside down? First of all, if you didn't enjoy the show, I'm not sorry that I loved it and disagree with you. Halftime ends and Twitter is on fire. Most everyone I follow had the same opinion I did. It was awesome! And oh crap, now WE'RE the old ones! Then there were all these people making fun of 50 Cent for being heavier than he was in the 90's... I was confused by that being a point of emphasis around the whole thing. I was thinking, "Really? We had OUR halftime moment! And now, we care about how much 50 Cent weighs?" and also, "Are any of you people the same size you were in the 90's?! I'm going to guess not!" The next thing I knew, people were taking this whole thing a step further and I saw a post that said, "You do realize 50 Cent won't see your posts making fun of him and care, right? But your friends who are struggling will and now you've isolated them." Woah, that's so serious. But I do agree. Before we go making judgements, I do recognize the humor here. I do understand that many of the jokes were just that, jokes. Some maybe even from a place of insecurity. I myself tend to mask some of my insecurities with self deprecating humor from time to time. It is a coping mechanism.
Here's the thing though. 50 Cent performing at the super bowl may not be the greatest example, but if you look at literally any hot button topic in the last 5 years you'll see similarities and patterns. One of those is the game of comparison. We can never let things stand alone. It seems we have this complex when it comes to things which are hard. A friend is struggling to have a baby and someone responds, "Well, at least you have a husband." Another friend is having a hard time after a miscarriage and someone responds, "Well, at least you know you can get pregnant." Friends are unhappy in their jobs and are met with, "Well, at least you have a job." A friend doesn't feel safe in their home and hears the response, "Well, at least you have a home." A friend is struggling with body insecurities and hears, "Well. Do something about it." You can likely add your own struggle to this list.
Here's the one I've been hearing in the last week. "You're bothered by the gas prices? Well at least you're not living in a war torn country like Ukraine." Listen. This is simply not helpful. I don't care if you have the best intensions from a heart of gold. Problems are problems. There will ALWAYS be one problem that doesn't "stack up" to another one. But it is simply NOT helpful to point it out using this lazy strategy. By doing this, you are unnecessarily adding to the depression. You are isolating people who cannot afford to be isolated. It is possible to be grateful and hopeless at the same time. It is possible to have compassion for the people of Ukraine and live in our own relevant trouble at the same time. Many of us use this comparison game as a coping mechanism. We use it to "get over" our problems rather than acknowledge them. We use the comparison method to bring ourselves back down to earth or to readjust priorities. We hear our friends hurt and want to fix it. This mechanism has the opposite effect. It turns out to be downgrading and wrong rather than the intended uplifting and "right." I also think we use this comparison game because we think it is the easiest and quickest route to a solution. We're uncomfortable. We want to sweep the hard under the rug or just move on completely. It is possible to live in compassion and hurt at the same time. It's called being human. It's a necessary evil.
I was talking to a friend about my own living situation being complicated and overwhelming at the moment. I explained my feelings of frustration, then because I'm so used to feeling the need to follow-up said, "But of course I'm grateful to have a place to live! It's not ALL hard!" She said, "Don't downgrade your feelings. What you're living through IS hard." We didn't solve my problem. We didn't even offer solutions. Her statement acknowledged my feelings and that was enough to make me feel better. To be seen. I think we need to do more of that. Acknowledging doesn't = a solution. We don't always need a solution. We don't need to sweep problems under the rug. We don't need to mask them by making a comparison. We need to acknowledge. We need to see and be seen. It's called being human. It's a necessary evil.
I can acknowledge all my friends who are having trouble creating and expanding their families in whatever ways they are dreaming. I can acknowledge friends who are unhappy in their work or feel stuck in insecurities. I can acknowledge the pain of the cost of living in my own country. I can acknowledge the terror of what is happening in Ukraine. I can acknowledge my own privilege in not having personal pain in many of these same situations while also living in my own. I can have compassion and a will to help solve all of these hurts at the same time. I can also feel helpless to do so. I can do all of these things without comparing them to one another. Problems are problems. Pain is pain. Hurt is hurt. It's a necessary evil. It's called being human. To see and be seen.