We live in a competitive world, but are there limits to where we should and shouldn’t be competitive? They say that misery loves company but I think we misunderstand what others are telling us and we react quickly thinking if we don’t say something we’re going to miss the opportunity. I tell you this because I had an experience last night that really made me think about how we hold people telling us distressing news and why we feel the need to jump into the volcano.
A good friend of mine was telling me that her husband is going for a CT scan. The doctors are thinking he’s having coronary blockage and it will probably end up with bypass surgery. I could tell that she was distressed and she’d only told one other person; so I felt honored to be held in that inner circle. I can tell you the knee jerk reaction was to play “can you top this” and describe the crazy things in my own life at this particular moment. Why is our natural reaction to try and trump the news of another? Do we feel so out of control when we hear distressing news that we relieve our anxiety by punctuating our own misfortunes?
This game of “can you top this” is confusing for everyone involved because it makes the person telling the original story that there situation isn’t all that bad. Remember parents who turned to their crying children and said, “you want to cry, I’ll give you something to cry about”. In this realm it’s almost as if we’re saying, “you want to be sad and upset, let me tell you something that will really make you feel sad and upset”. Maybe it’s instinctive, maybe it’s loss of mindfulness and maybe it’s our innate need to be the best at everything even if it’s being the best at bad news.
When we restrain ourselves we let the other person know that we’re present with them. We provide the other person the opportunity to fully explore their emotional and spiritual challenge having a witness to their process. Allowing the other person to have their moment of emotional truth allows us to offer our humanity and compassion to another without expecting anything in return. It’s our chance to be of service to a person we love, honor and cherish.
Have you ever found yourself in the position of trying to trump another person in the bad news arena? What was that experience like for you? What do you think it was like for the other person?