Something I’ve been hearing a lot lately is how we could always be in a worse position, in regard to one thing or another. I take issue with this general mentality, for a number of reasons which I’d like to go through to see if I am in the wrong if this mentality is flawed. I would like to address, in general, the idea of comparing yourself to others when something bad happens to you, and some of the common reactions that accompany that line of thinking.
Up to maybe a year ago, I had this notion that people saying that “It could be worse,” was a bit of a cop-out, but I couldn’t fully articulate what irked me about it. Then I heard a response that really put it into perspective: “Well, it could always be worse.” That was the key. No matter how low on the totem pole you are, you can always think of someone who has it worse off than you. How is this supposed to be a comforting thought? I would prefer it if everyone were better off than I. I would assume that it is because it makes you grateful for what you have. But it seems crude to need to compare yourself to others in order to be grateful. I’m sure if you sit down and think for a minute, you’ll be able to come up with a list of things you’re thankful for without thinking of kids in Aleppo.
Even the very idea of comparing yourself to others in order to determine your state of well-being is flawed. Being content isn’t looking at other people and saying, “Yeah, I guess I have it pretty good after all!” Being content is looking at what you have, including yourself, and saying “This is all I need.” Even someone who looks around and finds nobody in a worse position then himself can find the courage to say, “I have everything I need.”
Maybe the reason it’s a popular thing to do when bad things happen is because it shifts the focus off of yourself and onto something else, almost like a form of escapism. It distracts you from your own troubles and gives you a bit of a boost because you are putting yourself in a position above someone else. While people aren’t intentionally doing this in order to inflate their ego or their sense of self-worth, I believe that under the surface this is actually what is happening.
So if this isn’t the right thing to do when bad things happen, what is? “In repentance and rest you will be saved, in quietness and trust is your strength,” (Isaiah 30:15). “But as for me, I will hope continually, And will praise You yet more and more,” (Psalm 71:14). “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you,” (Matthew 6:33).