Pain is uncomparable.
Let’s not compare pain, okay?
There are two types of pain comparisons. The first is comparing our pain to others’ pain. The second is comparing our current pain to other painful times in our life. This post will focus on the first.
Recently I was listening to a conversation between family members who love each other unconditionally. They were talking about pain and comparing their experiences with those of a loved one. And they were understandably talking about pain as though it was rational.
In grade school I wrote down my musings about pain. I wondered if the pain I felt after losing my brother could be compared to others’ pain. I didn’t think so. I saw that when my friend’s dog died my friend was hurting – hurting like hell – because it was painful. It had nothing to do with what I was experiencing. It was his pain, it was real, and it was deeply personal. I immediately got it. Pain isn’t something that can be compared between people or circumstances.
Pain is not rational. There isn’t a 1 to 10 pain scale that is parallel to a 1 to 10 “big deal” scale. So, for example, if something is a 1 (low) on the “big deal” scale, it doesn’t mean that it feels like a 1 (low) on the pain scale. So, if individual importance and pain scales are incongruent, how is it possible to compare two peoples’ pain? It’s not.
Has telling your story – often in the “what I experienced was worse, so yours is not that bad” type of way – snapped a loved one out of their pain expressed as rage, or sorrow, or sadness? I doubt it. Telling our story doesn’t help the person that is hurting. Instead, let’s listen. Listen and be there. That’s what we can do to help.
Sometimes the best thing to say is nothing. It matters more than you can imagine. Be there. Care. Don’t compare. Just be. Be you. That’s more than enough. That’s everything.