The Summer Olympics are upon us once again. And though watching the athletes compete in the arena is thrilling and unites us, there is another type of Olympics which divides us and causes great harm. This is what I call the Suffering Olympics. And, unlike the Summer Olympics, the Suffering Olympics take place every day of every year. Here’s just one of the most recent Suffering Olympic events I’ve witnessed.
Recently a woman called me to inquire about counseling. By the tone in her voice she was clearly nervous to tell me she was seeking divorce counseling. She then proceeded to apologize in ten different ways why her suffering wasn’t justified.
“My mom told me to get over it and move on.”
“A friend told me things could have been worse.”
“A co-worker reminded me that at least I have my health.”
“I’m so sorry for crying,” she continued. “I know I shouldn’t be suffering like I am. It’s not a death, it’s just a divorce.”
In a myriad of ways, the world around this woman told her that her suffering wasn’t justified or wasn’t in proportion to what had happened. Things could have been worse. And certainly her suffering wasn’t the type that would win her any medals in the Suffering Olympics.
At these Olympics you get judged by others based on how many painful flips you went through, how many tragic twists you undertook, or how small of a splash you made when diving into the suffering pool. And when it comes to divorce, let’s just say that compared to the other events, divorce hardly gets primetime coverage.
But life doesn’t work this way and neither does suffering.
So your friend’s mother is dealing with a terminal illness. So your neighbor just lost her husband. So there are starving children in Africa. That is sad, tragic, and each of them is understandably and appropriately running their own suffering event. But it has no bearing on your challenges. It has no impact on the circumstances you are surviving. It simply has nothing to do with your particular race.
As I shared with this woman, share with all my clients and share with each of you contemplating, amidst, or enduring a divorce:
Your suffering is real.
Your suffering is legitimate.
Your suffering is yours and yours alone.
Do not qualify your suffering.
Do not minimize your suffering.
Do not apologize for your tears or your suffering.
And move through it.
They have their suffering.
You have your suffering.
It is enough for each of us to show up and endure our own suffering as we each courageously and compassionately continue to run our own race.