On the Aphorism 'There are people worse off than you'

January 28, 2007 5:24am CST
I don't know whether this is appropriate for the philosophy forum, but I thought I'd put it here because it's something that I have found myself considering quite often. A lot of the time, if you tell somebody about a problem you have they'll say "well at least you're not in the 3rd world" or "hey - you live in England/US/wherever you have got it way better than most people in the World" or something along those lines. Now, what I assume is implied by the aphorism is that one should be greatful for what one has. Frankly though, I think a more rational interpretation of it is that other people are suffering more deeply than you are, so be grateful that you're not in such terrible circumstances as them. Pulling it apart, it seems to me to boil down to 'though you are suffering now, there is a whole world of deeper suffering possible to you so be glad that things are not quite that bad'. Now, I don't know about you, but I think the supposed message of 'feel better' does not get through there. It simply acts to make one focus on the vast possibilities of human suffering in the World. Another assumption this sort of statement seems to make is that it's entirely possible for you to feel fine if only you'd realise how 'lucky' you are. It belittles your pain. I find when I feel pain, that concentrating on other's suffering or the endless possibilities of suffering in the world tends not to help. So people, why, if this aphorism is condescending, belittling and makes people feel worse is it so damn popular?! Or perhaps you guys think I've got this all wrong? Feel free to debate away!!
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