What Is Hurtful about Playing the Comparison Game?

"I Know Exactly How You Feel" (and Other Unhelpful Comments)

One way we might think we’re helping our hurting friend but are actually doing more harm than good, is to play the comparison game. Unless you are Jesus, it almost never helps to tell someone that you know exactly what they’re going through. If you’ve gone through the horrendous thing your friend or family member is going through, then surely they already know it.

One way we do this is to point out other people who have it worse than your friend. We might think we’re helping when we tell someone who has a hurt leg, "Well, at least you still have a leg. There are thousands of people around the world who don not have any legs, and they cannot walk at all. Praise God for the leg that you have!" How is that person supposed to feel when they hear that? Not better, that’s for sure.

Don’t start your encouragement by saying, "Chin up! It’s not as bad as that time when I . . ." or, "You know this reminds me of the day when I . . . ." When you do this you minimize another person’s suffering. You make your suffering friend feel like their pain is no big deal. To people in pain—whatever the issue is—it’s a big deal.

It is also best not to start any sentence with the words, "At least . . . ." "At least she’s in heaven now." "At least you have two other children." "At least your mind is strong." "At least you have a great family."

A better way forward is to say, "I love you and I’m so sorry." And just leave it at that. Instead of comparing your friend to someone you know you might say, "Friend, I don’t pretend to understand what you’re going through. But I want to try. Help me understand how you’re feeling."

If you find it difficult to sympathize Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians that we can comfort someone not because we can relate to them, but because Christ can relate to us.

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