The title of this post is objectively not true. No matter who you are, no matter what you’ve been through, you can point to something that happened to someone else at some other time and tell yourself that was worse.
But don’t tell your heart that. It won’t listen.
I know a young man who’s in the full throes of teen life. In the last couple of weeks, he’s lost his girlfriend and a pet, and a friend has been prevented from participating in a program that might be a significant help to him–a program this young man has worked hard to get him to attend.
He hasn’t been robbed. Nobody has been killed (the pet may yet reappear). He hasn’t been forced to flee a war, or a campaign of genocide, or a hurricane. He doesn’t have a terminal illness. He has plenty of food, a family who loves him, and a comfortable place to stay.
And none of that keeps him from being sad. None of that makes him immune from needing help.
Because to his heart, it doesn’t matter what others have been through. It still hurts.
We’re too quick to minimize suffering, whether it’s our own or others’. We’re too quick to tell ourselves to shake it off and get back in there. We’re too quick to look down our noses at somebody who just should be over it by now.
Part of courage is allowing ourselves to feel how we feel, to open our hearts to the emotions that arise from the whirlwind we ride every day. To allow ourselves to feel without judgment, without telling ourselves to get up and move on.
Because whether we let ourselves feel them or not, the emotions are there. The fact that worse things have happened to better people doesn’t change the fact that your heart hurts today.
Acknowledging that, taking the actions to help it heal, are the emotional equivalent of bandaging a wound. We don’t ignore it. We don’t force ourselves to labor with it to distract ourselves from the pain. We don’t look at other peoples’ wounds and tell ourselves we have no right to feel pain because theirs are so much worse. The wound hurts, and we cover it to protect it from infection. We go easy on it, protect it from re-injury, and give it a chance to heal.
But we don’t do that for hurts of our hearts. And the infections that result–bitterness, rage, crippling sadness, emotional inaccessibility–are killing us just as surely as gangrene.
It’s time for me to go to work. I’ll come back to emotional infection Thursday.