When is Compassion Warranted?

Never look down on anybody unless you’re helping him up. 
~Jesse Jackson

It seems to me that this world is full of competition. Competition to beat other countries, to be the smartest, the prettiest, the fastest, the best, the <fill in the blank>. Competition comes in many forms, but I think the worst is when I see competition for “who has it worse?” Lately, I’ve been seeing it in the infertility and mommy world. It’s definitely in the military spouse world, too. I know it’s always been there, but either I’m seeing more and more of it, or I’m noticing it more and more.

When have we suffered enough to warrant compassion—and perhaps sympathy—from others?

Is it when our spouses are gone? Or only when they’ve been deployed for a certain amount of time? Or is it only when they are in a combat zone? Or only when they reached a certain number of deployments over their career?

Is it when someone first starts struggling with having a child? Or when they are diagnosed with infertility? Or only when they’ve gone through medicated cycles? Or only when they’ve had IUIs? Or maybe not until they’ve gone through IVF… more than once? Or is it only when they realize they will never have biological kids?

Does someone deserve compassion and sympathy when their child is in the hospital for a day? Or perhaps not until one has been in for a week? Or is it only when the child has a life-threatening condition? Is it warranted for the parents of a preemie? Or only if the preemie is a certain number of weeks premature?

Is compassion warranted for those who nearly lose their children, or only to those who have lost their children? Is it only for those whose spouses have been injured on duty but recover? Or only those who have been permanently injured? Or only those who become widows or widowers?

No matter what, there is always someone who is worse off than we are. Those of us struggling with infertility have a tougher road (in this respect) than those who get pregnant easily. And those who get pregnant through medication only, have it a bit easier than those who need more invasive procedures to get pregnant. And those who DO get pregnant eventually, no matter what way… well, those who can’t would love to go through whatever they needed to in order to have children.

Those who have spouses go TDY/TAD to a school would much rather have their spouses home. And those who have their spouses deployed would prefer to have their husbands CONUS in a school. And those Gold Star spouses? They’d give anything to have their spouses anywhere on this earth–even deployed to a war zone–as long as they were living.

I sometimes struggle around other people who are dealing with infertility. Sometimes I feel as though I haven’t “earned” the right to complain because I haven’t done anything more than IUI. I haven’t had to inject myself with a million different drugs, so I feel as though I can’t ask for compassion from those who have. Some people on some boards (not here) I frequent will tell someone they have no right to complain because they haven’t gone through <insert the level>.

What about a MilSpouse who is dealing with a TDY to a school across the country? Does she not have the right to complain? What about my civilian cousin whose husband is gone 6 months out of the year to work several hours away (she gets to see him once a month)? Does she not have the right to receive compassion from those who “have it worse?”

Where does it end? Where is the line that you have to cross in order to receive compassion? I think we need more compassion in our lives. We need less one-upping and more comforting. I know there are times when I definitely could be more compassionate… what about you?

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11 thoughts on “When is Compassion Warranted?

  1. So true. I completely agree that life seems like a constant one upmanship battle. Sometimes I struggle with finding the balance between empathizing and competing too. I think at times we all can use a little perspective and acknowledge the value of each others struggles.

  2. Thanks for the reminder 🙂 I often get ‘annoyed’ when I hear other women complain about their husbands being out of town for work for a few days. While its hard not to compare, no one has an easy road to travel. I truly appreciate this post!

  3. This is wonderful. I am constantly feeling things like this. I find myself feeling defensive about whatever I’m going through when someone tries to tell me I have it easy or holding all my feelings in because I feel guilty about feeling them. It really sucks. I find myself telling people all the time. Everyone has their worst…this is yours and I won’t hold that against you! I wish more people felt that way. This came up recently when discussing the MSOY awards. There was a lot of discussion about deployment numbers and how certain people had only be deployed once or twice compared to this and all this stuff. How can you measure anyone’s life by statistics on paper. You don’t know what they do, or if they have deployments they can’t talk about… You don’t know someone’s life and how that relates to their value. Anywhoooo… Clearly you hit the nail on the head as far as I’m concerned 🙂

  4. I’m definitely more compassionate toward people going through infertility and so many other things than I feel I deserve in return when things get rough. Then there are things that I don’t say because I don’t know if it’s appropriate (this especially goes for things I would love to tell you, but I just can’t seem to do it since I don’t know you well enough) but it would show more compassion and love than anything in my own eyes. I think I’m afraid of making people feel worse even though I’m just trying to tell them I love them and that I’m there and care and want to help if I can. I don’t know.

  5. Wow! What a great post! I just experienced a miscarriage and I told a pastor’s wife that and instead of compassion (well she said she was sorry, sort of) she started telling me so and so lost his wife, so and so carried to term and gave birth to a stillborn. As if to say that what I had gone through was no big deal because it was ” early”. I found myself agreeing with her until I started to think about it. I wanted that baby and I lost him/her. All I needed was a listening, compassionate ear!

  6. I say all of those people deserve compassion in their own situation. Just because this is my 12th deployment and only someone else’s 1st doesn’t mean it hurts any less for me or for her. We just have different realities. Mine is that I already know what’s coming, the heartache, the missed birthdays, the lonely nights. Hers is that she has no idea. We all deserve compassion for what we are experiencing right now.

  7. Pingback: 2013: You were… there | Wife of a Sailor

  8. Pingback: When is Compassion Warranted- a Replay | Wife of a Sailor

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