Personal Essays

Why I’ve Stopped Playing the “My Life is Worse” Game

As I watched reports of the fire at Notre Dame last night my heart broke.

I’ve been blessed to spend a bit of time in Paris. The first time I was eighteen and the Notre Dame was the first big European cathedral I had been to. When I was twenty I went back as a part of my field school semester abroad. A lot of the people on that trip weren’t the kindest to me and when I went into the church it felt very comforting to know that no matter where and no matter what language at least there was somewhere I could understand what was going on. Watching a place that meant a lot to me, a place I had always considered a weird sort of beautiful safety net go up in flames was awful.

I think a lot of people felt the same.

notre dame

When I looked through Instagram stories this morning I saw a post that said something along the lines of “A Catholic church burns and people cry but three black churches got burned in Louisiana and no one cares.”

It rubbed me the wrong way.

I’ve never been to Louisiana but I don’t need to have been. I’m appalled that someone would intentionally set fire to, well anything really, anywhere. Be it a church, a business, someone’s home- no one deserves to have a building burnt down. It is absolutely, completely terrible that people have had their place of worship intentionally burned down.

I absolutely think that such a terrible attack should have gotten international media attention. It’s easy to think things are okay around the world and it’s important to remember that even in countries that claim to be progressive this kind of thing is happening.

What really tugged at my annoyance strings is the way that the post was worded. It reminded me a lot of a sort of game people play that I’ve dubbed, “my life sucks more.” It goes like this: someone tells you they can’t afford to go to an event. You say, “oh yeah, well I’m having trouble making rent this month.” then the conversation morphs into this spiral of who has a worse time, eventually someone “wins”, it’s awkward and no one feels better about anything.

I don’t think holding in struggles is great, talking and reaching out for help to the right people is super important. I just don’t think that the comparison is healthy. Just like there’s enough joy to go around when good things happen, there’s enough sadness in the world, enough love and empathy to go around during tragic times. The fact that the fire in Notre Dame is being treated as accidental and the fires in Lousiana were intentional arson make them completely different things.

So, in the same way I’ve decided to try to stop playing my life sucks more- sadly it’s become a bit of a destructive habit that’s hard to break- I’ve also decided to not compare tragedies. Personally, I can be sad about the Notre Dame and hope that the person who set the fires in Louisiana gets punished adequately at the same time. Most of all, I can hope that all the people affected by every tragedy have the strength and spirit to rebuild.