We can complain and know that others have it worse

There’s a meme that I’ve seen on social media that criticizes complaining about the surging gas prices in lights of the sufferings of the Ukrainian people.

The meme says: “Instead of complaining about gas prices going up, try feeling grateful that you aren’t sitting on a concrete floor in a train terminal, holding your cat, wondering if your home and everyone you love has been blown to bits.”

I find that view to be utterly unhelpful, condescending, and impractical.

There are real struggles right now. Inflation is a problem. Gas prices were already high and they’re now the highest they’ve ever been. And they’re gong to continue going up and with shipping costs going up, more prices will increase. I don’t think it’s helpful to be dismissive of those very real challenges people are facing. It’s emotional tyranny to tell people how they ought to feel.

Of course the people of Ukraine have it worse. But challenging situations are not a competition. You don’t only have the license to acknowledge difficulties if you’re going through the most difficult circumstance on earth.

Furthermore, a person can be stressed or frustrated about these current challenges and also have empathy for the people of Romania and how much they’re suffering. It’s heartbreaking to know that families have been separated, that women and children are refugees with nothing, that an entire society has been turned upside down. I think about the people who will be at risk of exploitation in human trafficking. I even get sad when I think of pets that have been left behind.

But how does it help to suggest that Americans shouldn’t complain?

What adds further insult to injury is the knowledge that America has vast supplies of oil that we choose not to drill and the average citizen gets stuck paying more. That’s a legitimate frustration.

This all comes after two years of having our society and lives turned upside down with Covid. During the earlier stages of Covid, if a person had the audacity to dare question public health policies, it was that they were anti-science and selfish.

Now if a struggling person acknowledges the difficulties of our economy, they’re told that their feelings don’t matter and they should just look at Ukraine? It’s madness.

For anyone who shares that meme, I hope you never complain again. Because there’s a war going on somewhere at almost all times. Refugee and humanitarian crises are sadly all too common. There are any number of evils which people in our world suffer. And whatever you’re going through, if someone else has it worse, you shouldn’t feel bad about your circumstances.

There’s nothing wrong with lamenting a difficult situation. Yes, it helps to have perspective that there are others who are less fortunate. Yes it is good to also be mindful of our blessings. It’s not ideal to dwell and constantly focus on difficulties and complain. But we also can’t ignore them when they arise.

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