I’ve noticed through my 25 long years on this earth that, when faced with the tragic happenings in my own or a loved one’s life, many people respond with some variant of “Well, someone out there has is worse off.” I haven’t experienced this terribly recently, but I do know that this sort of remark is not helpful in the least. I’d like to explain why for those who still tend to use this response.
1. It does not point to Christ. First and foremost, this response encourages the comparison of one life to another. It doesn’t look to God for comfort but rather explores how the wounded person’s life is somehow better than another person’s. This is like some sort of convoluted, reverse envy and it doesn’t encourage one to look to Christ in the midst of pain. It only encourages a glance around at others to compare and contrast woes.
2. It completely invalidates real emotions. This removes the opportunity to point to Christ as well. Emotions, from my understanding of them, aren’t inherently good or bad, but looking to the truth in spite of what they may say is imperative. Just responding with, “________ has is way worse off because they lost __________.” makes it sound as if the wounded person’s emotions are invalid because there exists someone else with bad things happening to them. The fact of the matter is that their emotions are real, they are in pain, and they need to look to the truth of Christ in the midst of that pain.
3. It’s passive. This response removes the responsibility of the comforting party to actually address any sort of over reaction being expressed by the wounded person. If someone is making a mountain out of a molehill, they should be confronted with this information. But, having them think about everyone else’s problems doesn’t actually fix anything. Rather than explaining that their problems, while real, may not be as large as they are perceiving them to be (and also then giving the wounded person a chance to explain why this particular situation seems so large to them), this response just says that their problems don’t exist because there are larger problems elsewhere; it is not confronting with loving truth.
4. It’s extremely insensitive. Can you imagine being the person to whom everyone else’s life was being compared? Being the person whose suffering is so horrific that others compare their own issues to it in order to feel better sounds awful. This response acts as if personal tragedies can just be tallied up, counted and compared without sympathy. It also completely ignores the fact that God is in control and has seen fit to have some people experience one brand of tragedy while others may experience a different kind.
5. It doesn’t actually encourage anyone to appreciate what God has given them. This response is often given (at least in my experience) to put things in perspective and emphasize what God has blessed the wounded person with. This is something that can and should be done without comparing to what other people do and do not have. Everyone’s life is different and the Lord has blessed each of us differently. It should be enough to simply recognize the blessings that we have been given in spite of our wicked selves. Comparison isn’t necessary and it places focus on people rather than on Christ.
Those are just my thoughts on the issue. Have you ever had someone say this to you? What do you think about this particular response to tragedy?