Sunday 22 August 2010

An argument that makes me cringe

Some arguments make you smile. Some make you see sense. Some arguments seem pointless. But some make you cringe, not in fear but in irritation and anger.

When you speak about your problem to an individual, pat comes the reply: Just think of people who undergo more sufferings than you. You are much better off.

The above given argument puts me off and saddens me further. First, instead of just listening to what I am presently undergoing, the person decides to provide a comparison. Second, I firmly believe that suffering cannot be measured. Each one has his/her own cup to bear and that cannot be seen with the backdrop of another's pain.

I have come across this kind of argument many times in the span of life I have lived. And the people who bring up this argument belong to various age-groups, social-standing and positions. Why should one's pain always be compared to someone else's?

Now complaining is not similar to pain but many times people confuse the two. There is even a famous proverb which says: "I complained I had no shoes, until I met a man who had no feet." Now this saying is not about pain, it is about a state which has no contentment but many use this wise saying when they see a person in pain.

I think all of us experience pain in varying measures and each one has his/her unique way of handling the same. But using X's pain and comforting oneself saying: "X is suffering more than me so my pain is nothing" is a foolish way of looking at pain.

I am sure this argument has been thrown at you while you crossed a difficult path. What do you think of this argument on pain and suffering. What arguments seem pointless to you?

Image courtesy: Internet


  1. Been there myself on both sides! Many confuse the venting/ heart openings of others as looking for a solution. People are in a rush and so do not have the time to hear or have forgotten how to listen. More importantly they do not want to feel or those very same feelings that the other person is going through.
    Love and Light.

  2. You have hit on one of my pet peeves. My response to that rational has been, your logic has not changed one iota of the severity of pain this situation has brought about. Although we can always find someone who has it worse (I guess) it is not really useful. In the book of Job – many things Job’s friends said were true but none of their words were useful.
    You nailed it on this one. Good work.

  3. One thing I'm learning is that no one can truly feel our pain and because of that people are clumsy when they try to offer comfort.

    I agree that comparisons are useless and listening with a deep intent helps us to at least feel heard and validated.

  4. Very true and very wise, Susan. Pain is a personal thing, and cannot be measured. There is no barometer of pain and comparisons, therefore, are useless. I admire your candidness and wisdom. But there is of course, as you rightly say, a difference between being in *pain* and complaining. Often we get wrapped up in things of no significance, and take too many things for granted. Then I feel it is important to recognise the bigger picture.

  5. i am with you...sometimes people (and I even) jsut want to be heard...not fixed...not compared...and def not pu down...

  6. i agree with u completely - hate the argument!!!

  7. YS:

    Everyone does think that what we need is a solution. You rightly said that people are in a rush. It is quite sad.

    Joy and peace always


    I was quite sure that there are many people out there who use that argument to annoy and cause more pain. Thanks for you kind words, GQ.

  8. Myrna:

    I think rather than trying, it would be wonderful if people just listened. Not many like doing that. Sometimes to prove something, people just have to offer some sound bytes.


    Your comments always make me feel good and nice. You have a way with words. Thanks Sam. Sadly, in real life these days, no one has time to recognise the bigger picture.

  9. Brian:

    "Not fixed, not compared," yes. Only heard. It seems so simple at the outset but still not ad easy for many.


    So you have come across that as well. Why people use that that argument is to be understood: whether they care about the pains of the world or are they just trying to comfort us. I don't know.

  10. Off topic... I was smiling because of your comment at Love Notes. Well, in six years time, it'll be done I suppose (minus my absent times), since our church rotates through the entire bible in six years. :)

    As for your post here, this kind of argument ignores the reality of how personal pain works. When we hurt, we hurt, regardless of what others are feeling.

  11. The main thing to remember here is the Intention - to comfort us.
    I don't get much annoyed by the comparison people use, but by Blame. Sometimes they might blame you for the situation you're complaining of.That's the worst! You expect understanding and you get blame.

  12. I always seem to be stuck in the middle, and prefer hearing each side of the argument rather than become directly involved.
    But I do agree with the rest of your comments, you cannot measure anyone else's pain or happiness, you can just share and either console or be happy for the other person/s involved.
    I enjoyed this post very much!

  13. I read this somewhere and I couldn't agree more.. "Misery is not relative. When you tell me about someone else who is suffering it makes me worse. I feel bad for me for my own misery and also feel bad about the other person's misery."

    What I don't like is people using this statement and not exactly knowing what it means.

    It is like measuring a solid in liters and a liquid in kgs. Both will give a measure.. but they cannot be compared.

    My analogies.. uff.. hope I was able to convey what I wanted to.

  14. LLB:

    Reading your comment, I am smiling. The Bible can be seen as poetry or prose but the truths it contains is priceless!

    Understanding personal pain is an art but many don't master it. Thanks for coming by dear Barkat :)


    Yes, rightly said. Blame is another complement to the comparison. One just wants to be heard. Period.

  15. Heather:

    Better to be ignored than hear comparisons, blame and past histories of pain. It suffers us more!


    Glad to see you commenting. Hope you have been well. The saying sums up everything. If I had seen that before, I would have added it in the post :)
    And, your analogies add to the post. I am enjoying them :)

    Joy always.

  16. I agree with you 100%, Susan. I don't find it in the least consoling when someone tries to remind me of all those who have worse sufferings. Yes, I do understand that in the grand scheme of things, there is pain and there is pain. At the end of the day, though, my pain is incomparable to anyone else's because it is mine and only I can know the severity of it. For someone to suggest that my pain is less than another's is quite belittling to my suffering, and that is something I certainly do not appreciate!

    And now, being my nosy and curious self, I am sitting here wondering what inspired your post. ;-)


  17. Dear Nevine: This post was born out of the meanderings of the mind in a stream-of-conscious manner. Pain is pain whether physical or emotional and nothing can reduce the severity of it.

    Joy always, dear Nevine :)

  18. Very well said..i have come across this argument many times in my sunday school...
    Comparison of pains and sufferings might be inept.
    But if it gives some kind of comfort or self-relaiztion or sense of content, then i believe it's omething positive

  19. John:

    Sunday School instills many such things which makes a strong impression. We were all children, you see. But SS has its nice moments as well.
    Thanks for coming by John. Yes, if the comparison provides comfort then it is fine maybe. It all depends on the individual at the end of the day!

  20. Susan, as ever your post is very special. I wonder how you get the idea of bringing forward and analyzing such a common issue which everyone might have come across at least once in their lives and overlooked :)
    I totally agree with the saying that we can never measure the pain a man suffers. As we all know that every human being is unique, we all experience the pain at different levels but pain being a feeling; we can easily say that it is more or less. Can’t we? (It is nothing but a mark of comparison)
    Haven’t we heard the phrases like heavy pain, more pain, great pain, the pain is too much to control etc etc. As a matter of fact we can never compare our pains with someone else’s pain but In fact we do compare our own pains. Sometimes we do imagine whether what if we have to suffer the pain which someone else is suffering or suffered?
    There are basically two types of pains. One is physical and the other one is emotional pain. Suppose if a small boy or girl is subjected to child abuse, he/she will suffer physical pain at that time and will suffer emotional pain later through out his/her life. Practically speaking, we can’t measure the physical pain as it depends on the resistance power of the individual and at the same time we can’t measure the emotional pain as well for it depends on the sensitive nature of the individual.
    Sometimes a small thing can be very painful for some sensitive person and at the same time some may not feel any pain. But even in that sensitive person’s life we can pick out the things which caused him more pain and the things which caused him less pain. Am I Right? That is nothing but comparison.
    Again, a man who is undergoing emotional pain is prone to depression or loneliness and at that time he needs the support of someone, the strength to fight the pain or even a companion to understand the pain which he is suffering at that time. Hence the person may share it with others, the person may complain about the pain he is suffering. And most of all he is looking for some support (Note here that complaining is just the after effect of suffering pain and as you said they are very different). At that mental state, mentioning about someone else’s pain is of course a mark of comparison but for a purpose. In that weak moment, if we talk of someone’s great pain the person in pain tends to imagine how he will react if the same sort of pain occurs to him. It is nothing but self comparison which in fact will give a lot of emotional strength to deal with his/her pains.
    Finally, it all depends on the individual. Some people like it that way. To be frank, comparison of any kind of pain is not recommended and I personally don’t like it. But then we need to think about the reason whether why some people compare it, What are their intentions etc. Sometimes some people compare the pains to make ourselves believe that what we are suffering is a bit less when compared to others’ pain.
    Anything which is done for the happiness of others without hurting anyone is of course a heavenly act. :)

  21. Asif:

    Thanks for taking the pains (!!) to type out a long comment. A detailed analysis is what you have done and you definitely have the wonderful art of delving deep.
    The last line of your comment sums it all. What is important is that we should never add to the pain that is already making the person feel low-spirited :)

    Joy always.

  22. It does get kinda irritating when people point out the less fortunate, but it also gives us a different perspective... I'm Libran, I'm used to seeing pros and cons on both sides :)

  23. I'm a Libran too! You mean a different perspective to pain?

  24. When I could not eat any more, my mum used to say, ' Have you got an idea how much hunger is there out in the world? How can you afford to refuse to eat it all up?' I thought to myself ' is there a way I can send them this i do not want?'...

    BUT I usually agree that other's mysery is greater than mine and that I complain quite too often for things which are not worth it... OK my pain is my pain and bigger than anyone else's but we must admit, sometimes, we can cheer ourselves a bit up, just by looking at what others are so badly suffering, although eventually that only brings impotence... (IMO)

    Hugs ;)

  25. Yes, Dulce sometimes it works well but not always. After the pain subsides, one can try and make sense but while in that, the argument annoys.




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