I don’t really blog about moral issues, politics, or even my opinion, really. But here’s the cool thing about writing my own blog- that can change whenever I want it to change.
And today, that will change.
There is a trend I see that is making my head hurt, my heart ache, and my stomach churn. I don’t know what the technical term for this phenomenon is, so I’m calling it “Suffer Shaming.” It goes something like this:
Facebook/blog post: “Baby was up all night. I’m so tired!” Bring on the flood of comments and comments of comments….
-Comment: “At least you have a baby to be up with- my baby died.”
-Comment: “At least you got to deliver your baby- I had a stillbirth.”
-Comment: “At least you got to carry your baby- I had a miscarriage.”
-Comment: “At least you got to be pregnant for a while- I’m infertile.”
-Comment: “At least you have a partner that wants to have a family- I’m single.”
-Comment: “At least being single you can sleep through the night- I’m up with my baby all night.”
And around and around we go.
So what’s my problem with this? Is it the sharing of trials? No. (I can just see the flood of comments from people taking this post the wrong way- people thinking that I’m saying it’s inappropriate to share trials. That is NOT what I’m saying, peeps!) Is it that I don’t believe some of these heart-wrenching, character trying issues are really a big deal? Absolutely not. All of those examples above are incredibly trying circumstances.
My problem is with this insane idea that we need to “out suffer” one another. It’s bad enough to belittle someone’s success, do we really have to belittle one another’s trials? The example I gave is just one example of a million different scenarios where I see people feel justified in belittling another’s suffering because they feel their suffering is more significant.
The other issue I have with this is the idea of a suffering hierarchy, as though it is possible to take a trial and quantify it. To think that someone has the authority to rank anyone’s pain above another person’s pain is just ridiculous. Here’s the thing: personal suffering is just that- personal.
I get what the shamers are trying to do here. I know that in the majority of cases it’s not coming from a place of malice. Most often, the shamer is trying point out that things could be worse, to get the sufferer to “see the sunny side,” so to speak. The reality is the person is just coming across as bitter, and the sufferer now feels guilt and shame.
(And we wonder why people don’t want to talk about their mental health- there’s always someone ready to echo the voice in our head that says we really shouldn’t be feeling the way we feel.)
How do I know this? Because I’ve been on both sides. Yes, I’m ashamed to say I’ve been the one to “suffer shame” someone. It wasn’t a good color on me. And I’ve also been on the receiving end of someone’s suffer shaming. Didn’t care for that side either.
Now I wouldn’t write this blog post if I didn’t have a couple solutions, simple though they may be:
1. Remember that life is a marathon and the goal isn’t to finish first, it’s to help as many people across the finish line as we can. Cliche, I know. But even if you are so deep in a trial that you aren’t even walking the marathon anymore, you are crawling, when you notice someone at a complete standstill, don’t beat them over the head with your trials! If you have the strength to club them with your trial, you have the strength to lift them up. Even if it’s just an inch further.
2. Stop hiding behind your computer screen. Most of the suffer shaming I see happens online (blog posts, Facebook, etc.). Remember these people who are sharing their trials are REAL people who are ACTUALLY hurting. Imagine you’re sitting next to that individual while she tearfully shares what’s troubling her soul. What would you say? Are you as cold and callous as your comment makes you out to be? I hope not. Do you really want to induce shame and guilt on someone when they’re already hurting? I doubt it. As my mom always says, “There is a kind way to say everything.” Find that kind way.
Let’s summarize: Suffer shaming- not cool. Help people. Be nice.
(Drops mic. Exits stage left.)
P.S. If I feel like your comment is hateful and negative, I’m not going to post it. And I don’t feel the least bit sorry for that. So all you trolls can get back to your caves and start your own blogs.
This is the obnoxious face I imagine people make when they “suffer shame” other people. Just kidding. I’m only including it because, as a photographer, I can’t NOT have a photo with a post…. Also, for the record, this is my brother who is one of the kindest 18 year olds on the planet and does NOT endorse or participate in suffer shaming.