Don’t Compare Your Pain

A few weeks ago Suzanne wrote a helpful post about staying connected with your friends with kids. I resonated with the topic, because during my years of singleness, I had to learn how to be flexible and adjust my expectations when my married friends started to have kids. Suzanne wrestled with the same thing while single, and I thought her suggestions were spot-on.

But then I read the comments. And a lot of them were discouraging.

I can certainly relate to the frustration of a friendship not surviving a new season, but some of the comments conveyed a strong sense of “us versus them.” I think the mentality of comparing who has it worse (e.g. “It’s way harder to be single than a mom of little kids”) doesn’t accomplish anything. In fact, it actually makes it harder for us to be united as a body of believers.

One commenter said this about keeping score in friendships,

As soon as you do, the focus changes from, ‘How can we encourage each other?’ to ‘How can this person meet all my needs?’ Then bitterness grows when that person doesn’t meet our needs.

We can also turn to resentment when we compare who has it worse. An unmarried person says, “At least you have a spouse to help you with the kids.” And a married person thinks, At least you can go home at night and not have to take care of anyone.

In, “At Least You’re Married or Single,” Lore Ferguson captures this idea so well. As a newly-married, 30-something, Lore knows the pain of this comparison from both perspectives. She writes,

Marriage and singleness are both sanctifying, neither one is more or less. If you ask me where I was more sanctified, marriage or singleness, I would tell you the sanctification doesn’t even compare because it is precisely and exactly the same.

In singleness I struggled with idolatry, selfishness, fear, pride, self-sufficiency, and so much more. In marriage I struggle with all of them still, not more, not less, the same. God, in His goodness, shows me that He is the same whether I am single or married by showing me that I am the same too. The only difference in these sanctifying agents is that for 34 years singleness was the best way to prove, distill, and refine me, and now marriage is God’s best way to prove, distill, and refine me.

Here’s what happens when we compare our pain to someone else’s: we diminish the pain each of us is experiencing. This comparing extends beyond the issue of marital status. My friend’s son had a health scare when he was a baby. At the hospital, people told her, “At least he doesn’t have cancer.” That statement implied that she shouldn’t feel pain about her son’s diagnosis, because it could be something worse. But to her, it was incredibly painful and she needed to grieve and experience it fully.

I love being married, but there are things I miss about being single. Both experiences have had difficult moments that have tested my faith, and both have had moments of amazing blessing. In both circumstances, God has deepened my faith and used my situation to refine me. So let’s not make it harder to be content in our circumstances — whatever they may be. Instead of comparing, let’s remind one another that God is faithful to sanctify us and extend grace to us in whatever season of life we are in. At the end of day, we aren’t in competition with each other for the “Who Has It Worse” award. We are in this together. We are the ones who will take Christ’s love to a hurting world, and that should unite us.