Imagine that you’re talking with a friend. Maybe you’re sitting at a cramped table in Miller Dining Hall, or perhaps you’re grabbing an espresso at Treeline Coffee Roasters. You’re venting to your friend about a particularly difficult class and how you’re worried that you might not pass. You finish your sentence and sigh deeply … and your friend says, “Well, it could always be worse.”
How is this an appropriate response!? When I open up to someone about a struggle I’m facing, I’m often putting myself out there and making myself emotionally vulnerable. Most of the time, I just want someone to listen. I don’t want anyone to tell me that other people have it worse because other people will always have it worse. I could be suffering a horrible tragedy, like the loss of a parent, and it still wouldn’t measure up to the situation of an orphan dying of starvation.
Just because my suffering is not at the same level as that of another person does not make it less valid or important. I want to have the freedom to complain about a particularly hard reading for my American Thought and Culture Class without anyone drawing a parallel between my complaint and the struggles of homeless people in America. They are not the same, and you shouldn’t even bring them up. It doesn’t make me feel better to think about how my battle with depression is not as bad as soldiers getting bombed in Afghanistan. It actually makes me feel worse, because now I’m thinking about that as well as my own problems.
If you need to say something, take a leaf out of the “Parks and Recreation” book. All you need to tell someone is, “That sucks.” Just listen, respect their struggle and support them. Otherwise, keep your mouth shut. In this, I concur with fellow editor Dylan Vogel, who says, “In this moment, shut the hell up.”