Don't Underestimate the Immensity of the Human Heart

One morning, a friend tells me how tired she is from work and travel.

I coo with sympathy. That sounds exhausting, I say.

But what I’m thinking is: You are tired? You have no idea how much work and how much travel I’ve been doing. Tell me how you’re feeling after you walk a day in my schedule.

This would not be the first time I’ve dismissed someone’s pain because I thought mine was greater. And I’ve done it with just about every issue under the sun.

You think that traffic was bad, listen to my commute.

You think that root canal was hard, let me tell you about the one I had that took five months.

You think that’s stress, here are the 189 balls I’m keeping in the air.

What I’m saying is, I am the one who’s suffered. I am the one who’s worthy of sympathy.

But what I’m finding is that when I dismiss the pain of the person before me, it’s usually a sign I’ve dismissed my own pain.

If I haven’t acknowledged my pain, it screams out for attention when someone else’s pain is present, a scream that manifests in comparison and one-up-man-ship.

When I can see my own pain - be it tiredness, overwhelm, anxiousness - and when I can hold it with tenderness, that tendency to dismiss others’ pain isn’t so strong.

We all carry loads that sometimes threaten to crush us. But we are each unique creatures. What crushes me could be a featherweight for my friend; what crushes her could be a featherweight for me. Which means we carry our loads to the best our unique alignment of muscles, mind, spirit knows how.

So when I find myself dismissing people who are sharing their pain, I know two things. One, I’ve probably dismissed my own pain. And two, when I acknowledge my pain, I find there’s room in my heart for my pain and theirs.

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