Today many of my Oklahoma family and friends are enjoying a real snow day. Normally their snow days end up falling apart before they ever fully arrive, but not this time. It really snowed and it snowed a decent amount. But watching all of their talk of snow made me think about how we sometimes respond to others. Living in South Dakota means I see far more snow than my friends and family in Oklahoma. It’s also significantly colder here. When they complain about the cold or they start talking about a heavy snow coming, it’s tempting to respond with how much snowier and colder it is here.
Have you noticed that we often do that as people? We play this game of one-upmanship. When someone gets hurt we may talk about a worse hurt we’ve experienced. When someone is going through a difficult time, we talk about one that was even more difficult. Have you ever talked about how much your kids weighed when they were born? It’s like the bigger the better and if you had small children, they aren’t as good. It’s almost like we see life as a competition. That somehow their life and what’s going on must be compared to my own and a winner chosen.
But that’s the furthest thing from the truth. The reality is, it can be cold in Oklahoma and cold in South Dakota. The truth is, your headache and someone else’s migraine can both hurt. None of us has the rights to suffering or pain. None of us has the position of authority to determine who gets to complain or vent or hurt. Though one may be greater than another, the greater doesn’t nullify the existence of the lesser.
So how do we keep ourselves from falling into this trap? The golden rule comes to mind in times like this. How would I want to be treated? If I’m crying out in suffering, I don’t want it belittled, I want to be heard. If I’m feeling cold, your colder situation doesn’t make mine any better. Instead of seeing life as a competition what if we started to view these situations as opportunities to encourage people and show them their value? What if we saw these opportunities as one’s to “rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.” (Rom. 12:15) It is through compassion and kindness that good will be brought about, not through comparisons and dismissals.
In the end, treating one another the way we want to be treated will have a far greater impact.