Guest Post: Compassion vs. Comparing Our Grief to Others

My husband wrote this tonight. It made me think, “How am I doing in this area?”

Compassion vs. Comparing Our Grief to Others

Consider two different approaches of relating to other grieving people, with two diverse motivations. 

The first could be called Compassion: we identify, we empathize, and relate to others. We look for similarities. When they describe their situation, we choose to recognize, “I’ve felt like that, or thought like that, although our circumstances were quite different.” We understand they are hurting, and we share or “bear their burden” with them out of compassion for them. 

We may be reminded of our own situation, but that is not our focus – it simply heightens our awareness and understanding of their pain. This is similar to our showing mercy when we really understand we have received mercy, or forgiving someone because we truly know we are forgiven. Compare this way of thinking to the Fruit of the Spirit described in Galatians 5:22 (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control).

The other path is Comparing. We look for differences. For example, whose loss is worse, more tragic, more painful? Whose loved one was less innocent, less moral, less exemplary? Our situation is the primary focus, while the other person’s loss becomes a contemptible benchmark. We are in effect comparing our “insides” to their “outsides” – not a very just comparison. 

Worse, this readily degrades to competitiveness and is rooted in self-centeredness and pride. In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis points out pride is essentially competitive, by its very nature. When we say someone is proud of being rich or strong, we see they are actually proud of being richer or stronger than someone else. This is contrary to the Christian’s life in the Kingdom. We usually recognize these examples in others. 

What’s harder to see is how equally pointless and wrong it is to compare our loss to that of another person in this way. There literally is no comparison anyway, so why would we step outside of Kingdom thinking and make comparisons?

Paul clearly warns us against making comparisons to others (Romans 14:1-13, Galatians 6:1-5), as did Jesus (John 21:20-22). Finally, consider what Comparing/Competing has in common with the “deeds” of the flesh” described in Galatians 5:20-21 (discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissentions, factions, and envy).

So, my friends, which shall we choose? Comparisons or Compassion 

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