At Least I’m Better Than Him

At Least I’m Better Than Him

It seems we all do it.

We’re taught to by our parents, by our community.  We’re taught that being grateful means putting down someone else.

Think about it.  When you start feeling down about something in your life, what do people tell you?  At least you’re not as bad off as so-and-so, he has a terrible life, be happy you aren’t fill-in-the-blank.  And then you start to do it yourself.  You think, I must be grateful and happy that at least I’m not an amputee.  At least I’m not a quadriplegic.  At least I don’t have a progressive neurological condition.  At least I’m not job-less.  At least I’m not bald.  At least I’m not like that person over there.

Comparing ourselves to others is always a mistake.

We have no idea what that person’s life is like.  Different people with the exact same circumstances will feel differently about their lives.  We cannot know.

But it gets worse than that.  To encourage ourselves and others to compare our circumstances and our lives to those around us sets us up for failure.

As soon as you say “I’m not as bad off as him” not only are you assuming to know something about that persons’ life that you don’t, you’re also automatically putting yourself into a hierarchy where you will necessarily be worse off than someone else.

I saw this happen with an ex-boyfriend of mine.  He was what they call a walking quad, which means that he had a spinal cord injury, but it was incomplete and he could walk, though it was difficult.  He would say “At least I’m not a complete quad.  I’m grateful I’m not a complete quad, it could be so much worse.”  Sound reasonable, right?

He was the most bitter, self-pitying person I’ve ever met.  Because the more he told himself that he was glad he didn’t have a more severe injury, the more jealous and angry he became about people who didn’t have a spinal cord injury at all.

We’re told that bullies put other people down to feel better about themselves.  What we don’t realize is that we are subtly doing that every time we think we’re being grateful, altruistic, praising God.

The next time you catch yourself saying “Thank God I’m not ______” remember that you have no idea what it’s like to have or be whatever it is and the minute you put yourself into the ranking, you’re going to be lower than someone else.

4 Comments

  1. GirlWithTheCane
    Aug 16, 2011

    Very wise words, Ruth.

    I don’t compare myself to others as much as I used to, but it’s still something that I struggle with from time to time. It’s a hard mindset to get out of once you’re in there.

    I’ve been reading the Romantic Friday writings…very enjoyable. 🙂

  2. RuthMadison
    Aug 16, 2011

    We all do it! I’m very consciously aware of it now, but that doesn’t mean I don’t still sometimes fall into that trap.

    I’m so glad you’ve been reading the Friday writings! They are a great challenge for me.

    • GirlWithTheCane
      Aug 16, 2011

      You and Smart-Ass Cripple inspired me to write a post on my blog about comparing ourselves to others, if you’d like to check it out. 🙂

      I saw on Twitter that you hit your 2000 words today (or was it yesterday?)…good work, either way! Keep it up!

      • RuthMadison
        Aug 16, 2011

        I’ll go check it out now! Thanks for letting me know 🙂 Yeah, I have to keep my word count going. It’s like a bad reality show, watch for the train wreck of me frantically writing against a looming deadline! lol.

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