People working in impoverished areas around the world know that giving something to just one or a few individuals in a community creates intense conflict and resentment with those who did not receive anything. It doesn’t matter if those who received worked to earn it or if what was given is of little value. There seems to be something very deep in us that causes us to compare ourselves to those around us. And when we fell that we have gotten the short straw, we judge ourselves and our lives harshly.
Learning not to do this is an ongoing lesson. In the meantime, if we’re going to compare ourselves to others, we ought to at least have some perspective. Instead of comparing yourself to the relatively few human beings who live as well or better than we do, expand your view and compare your life to the normal human experience – ie all people past and present.
Once upon a time, I was a young, poor single mom who couldn’t pay my bills and would search for coins to buy milk for my kid before payday. Often, I would start to feel bad about myself and my life. So I would think, “Not only do I have shelter, but it is 70 degrees all year round in my little apartment- no matter how cold it gets outside! Water comes into my home. I can take a hot shower any time. Even on a bad night, we eat safe, foods from all over the world. I have a coffee maker that lets me make my favorite beverage any time I want it. I have a car that takes me further each day than most people in human history traveled in their whole lives. I have enough clothing to make a mess with and a machine outside my back door to wash them. I live with more comfort and luxury than kings and queens have through most of human history.” And then my life didn’t seem so bad.
Make a list of all the ways that your life is much more comfortable, safe and luxurious than is normal for human beings through out time. Pull it out as needed.
And now because I love you all, here’s a great video of an interview with Lewis CK on Conan O’Brien a couple of years ago: Everything’s Amazing and Nobody’s Happy