I hope she doesn't mind me sharing here.
She talks about how a man tried to console her over the loss of her sweet little boy, by reminding her to be grateful that she was able to have a child when so many woman are not able. His intentions were good, he only meant to help, but she felt there a was a flaw in his reasoning. She says
"Gratitude is not born of comparison. Teddy Roosevelt said that "Comparison is the thief of joy." I believe that is true whether we are comparing ourselves to individuals we consider to be "above" us or those who seem to be "below" us. Comparison robs us of joy because it forces us to rank ourselves on some imaginary scale of happiness, when no such scale exists. Happiness is not linear, it's not a ladder to be climbed. It is more fluid like water. It moves around us and through us. Sometimes it fills us, and sometimes we thirst for it. "
How often I have thought how I ought to be grateful because my husband's addiction hasn't progressed as far as many other women. But this reassurances has never felt very reassuring. My pain has always been real despite the fact that it might be "less" than the pain of another.
What I have is neither "more" or "less" than anyone else. Gratitude is not found in focusing on the pain of someone else to belittle my own.
Gratitude is feeling joy because in spite of everything, I still have enough.
My pain is real, and comparing my pain to someone else's pain whether to make myself feel more self-pity because my trials are "worse", or to guilt myself into feeling gratitude because my trials are "better" is not productive. Nor does it foster a healthy, compassionate empathy, but rather feelings of either jealousy or superiority.
Coping with my pain is part of what brings me closer to God, teaches me, humbles me. But ultimately living in my pain indefinitely can lead me to be ungrateful. And by being ungrateful, I mean failing to recognize that what I have, regardless of what others have, is sufficient for my happiness.
A few more wise words from Julie.
"I don't believe we can rank life's adversity... Watching your child die is hard. It is all hard, it is all pain, and finding respite in someone else's suffering is short lived and ultimately extremely unsatisfying. As I grow older and understand more fully the pain of others my heart aches more, not less.
Since losing Jonah I have discovered that it is possible to feel gratitude in the midst of darkness. Gratitude brings with it a light and recognition that my life remains full of mercy and grace. "
I frequently fight the temptation to focus on what my life is lacking. It is easy for me to justify myself when I get cranky with my children, because I convince myself that what I have is not enough to make me happy. But like Julie mentions in her post, I have traveled to an impoverished country myself, and seen joy the faces of people who have very little or experienced much pain. This doesn't tell me that I SHOULD be happy because they are, it simply tells me that I CAN be happy with what I have.