worse than thou

by Andrea Elizabeth

Another thing I’ve been thinking about lately is when one person’s sufferings trump another person’s sufferings, do the lesser sufferers get to compare their experience? Some people say, no, how dare you compare yourself to this much esteemed person and all the literal hell they went through? You have no right to complain, or think your experience is in any way similar.

On one hand suffering is suffering, no matter to what degree. If it is the most intense thing a person has experienced, it seems to be really horrible, no matter how much more intense another person’s was. When we hear of another person’s greater suffering, we have a frame of reference, even if it is to a lesser degree, so that we can relate. We can also imagine to some extent what it would be like to go through something worse, especially if the story was told well. We can commiserate, as it were. But we wouldn’t know exactly what it would be like unless we lived through it to.

When is the comparison legitimately offensive? I suppose if it is wrong, in that if one believes their lesser suffering is actually greater. Even then, I think one can be sympathetic to delusion and recognize that one is deluded about himself too. If the delusion is to a lesser degree, it is debatable if one should believe that about himself.