The Questionable Virtue of Sucking it Up

I know many who suffer
who are quick to say: but
someone always has it worse.

it’s a saying meant not so much 
to turn us outward as to minimize
those raw and fragile feelings
of which we somehow learned
to be ashamed; and it is hard
to argue, since it’s usually true
that someone else has had it
worse than you.

I wonder what it would take
for us to question the unspoken
notion that suffering is 
a competition one must win
in order for their pain to matter,
that trauma is only valid
if no one can one-up you 
by claiming theirs is worse.

because, dear one, let me tell you: 
it may seem noble to deny all 
those sore and sorrowful feelings, 
to treat your bruised and tender 
heart with callous roughness 
and indifference, simply because 
some might deem its trauma 
insufficient to merit care;

but our adamant insistence 
on ignoring and dismissing pain
adds nothing of value to this world;
we only become the hurt
ignoring hurt,
telling others to toughen up
as we were taught,
repeating the bootstraps gospel
that someone always has it worse.

dear one, you owe your heart — 
your very self — all
the tender and conditionless love
it might find nowhere else,
for it is worthy of such love.
you deserve to love and
to accept love for yourself,
not because you have suffered most,
but simply by virtue of being
and of being you.

in this hurting world so 
quick to be callous and 
rough where there is hurt,
I pray you may instead become 
a vector of compassion, 
that the tenderness you show
yourself might tender your heart
toward others, and your gentleness
engender even better love — for love 
will catch, like laughter or flame,
and love will make of this 
a kinder and more merciful world.

and that is what you owe
to the ones who have it worse.

February 24, 2023

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Allison Siburg

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