It’s a phrase that is used pretty liberally nowadays. I’ve used it myself quite a lot in the not to distant past but here’s the thing, I live in the First World! That’s right, I said it, the First World is where I live, so for me, they are all just problems. This got me to thinking about problems in general. We tend to judge our problems against others. Sometimes we think, “Well that’s nothing, look how much worse my problem is than your’s” and sometimes we think “Holy crap, I’m glad my problem isn’t as bad as your’s”. It’s all relative to our personal experiences and perceptions really. Let’s look at some “real life” examples.
Imagine you’re walking the halls of a hospital. We’ll make it really hard and walk through the pediatric ward, ok? So here in one room you have parents with their 14 year old child who has a debilitating disease. I’m not good with disease names so bear with me. These parents have know their child was sick, almost since birth, and they have been watching their child get worse and worse and worse. The doctors say there are a few more treatments but everyone knows that this kid has a couple more years, max, till they lose this fight and it’s all over. In the room next door there is a couple with an 8 year old child with Cancer. This cancer moved quick and their child is now in their final days of fighting. While both Dad’s are getting some lunch, they talk and share their stories. The 8 year old’s Dad walks away thinking how lucky the other is to have had 14+ years with their kid. He is angry that he will lose his after 8 and he definitely feels like it’s not fair. The Dad of the 14 year old leaves feeling like his situation is worse. He thinks to himself how lucky the other Dad is that he won’t have to watch the slow painful decline of his child, thinks that it would have been easier if it had been quicker. In a back corner of the cafeteria is a man, another Dad, who has been listening to the two men. He leaves thinking how luck these two men are to have had the chance to fight the good fight, and to say goodbye. He just finished identifying his sons body, who was killed instantly in a car accident.
Do you understand what I’m saying here? Your problems, my problems, they are all just problems. We all struggle equally, based on where we “live” . Now I don’t know about you but I grew up with an adult who constantly told me to think of (insert starving kids in Africa, homeless kids in Detroit, sweatshop kids in India) how much worse other people have it. I spent so much time, at one point as an adult, thinking about those who had it worse than me, that I couldn’t sleep, couldn’t function, because my heart just couldn’t take the injustice of the world. I still struggle with it today and yes, it takes people thinking of these things to come up with solutions. I am not saying we shouldn’t. I am saying we shouldn’t judge the severity of one person’s problems against the others. I am saying that the popular phrase “That’s a First World problem” shouldn’t be used. Let’s try to look at this in action.
My ice maker on my freezer isn’t working. Is this a big problem? No, of course not. Even for me this is just a small problem but it’s still a problem. It’s still something we used every day and I’m upset that it’s broken. I’m upset that I will have to save up money to fix it. I don’t know what the equivalent would be for say, a poor tribe in Africa. I am, however, confident that there IS an equivalent!!! My problems may be of the first world variety, but third world people have third world problems. It’s all relative to where you “live”
I live in America. In a nice suburb. With a husband who makes decent money. We made choices that allow me to be a SAHM. I have 3 healthy kids, but they have behavior problems. I have a decent house but it needs work. We will never starve. We still struggle.
We have problems. Everyday. Just like every other person on the planet. A problem is just a problem. Think about that and pay attention to how often your judge others problems against your own. Whether you think your’s are worse, or better. Maybe, when your thinking to yourself, “They don’t know how lucky they are to have that problem”, you can take a second to ask yourself where that person really “lives”. Maybe when your beating yourself up for being upset about one of your problems, you can ask yourself that same question. No matter where you “live” a problem is still a problem.