First World Problems?

Jeans, Denim, Torn, Ripped, Worn, Fashion, Casual

Have you ever tried to stop feeling sorry for yourself by thinking about how much worse other people have it?  Does it work for you?  When I use it to remind myself to have a sense of humor, sometimes it works; my family’s motto is “it could always be worse,” usually followed by a darkly funny memory of a time when things got really chaotic.  But if I try to pull myself out of self-pity by thinking about starving children in Africa or homeless people in the city, it usually doesn’t work.  All it does is make me feel guilty on top of everything else, and start me off on a train of thought about how crummy the WHOLE WORLD is, anyhow.

The problem with this way of thinking is that it assigns each human pain a ranking.  Upset that you live in a tiny apartment?  It’s better than a clay hut in Africa!  Upset that you live in a clay hut?  It’s better than being homeless!  Upset that you’re homeless?  Be grateful–you could be dead!  If you keep going this way, there’s probably only one person in the world who has a right to feel bad, because everyone else has at least some advantage over him to be grateful for.

I don’t think that’s how God sees it.  I think he cares about your “first world problems,” even if they’re small or silly, because He knows what it’s like.  I recently came across this encouraging quote from St. Philip Neri:

A man should not ask tribulations of God, presuming on his being able to bear them: there should be the greatest possible caution in this matter, for he who bears what God sends him daily does not do a small thing.  [emphasis mine]

This doesn’t mean it’s okay to sit there and dwell on your problems, but there’s no point in forcing yourself to feel guilty, either.  Your problems are legitimate, and God cares about them; and that in itself is encouragement to not let them swallow you up.


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