Many times in life, I have asked myself, “Why me?”
When experiencing tragedy and hardship in a world where it seems like you suffer more than others, this is an easy question to ask. It comes to the mind just as easy as basic arithmetic. However, after trying hard to seek understanding, and not letting my ego get in the way of the truth, I realized not only is the framing of this question inaccurate, but it is a pointless question to ask in the first place. Here’s why:
Suffering is universal.
As the Northlane song “Scarab” goes, “So you want the truth? The truth is we all suffer. We all suffer in life. We all suffer in time.” Harsh lyrics, no doubt, but it’s a brutally honest truism. Suffering at a young age, it can seem as if you are the only one who has experienced tragedy or misfortune. However, you have not lived long enough to fully understand the reality of the world.
Asking “Why me?” is a self-centered perspective, which is not indicative of the bigger picture.
Instead of asking a 12-year-old if he has suffered in life, try asking a 70-year-old, and the elder will certainly be of different opinion. It seems unfair that people suffer at younger ages. Many people issue empathetic remarks such as, “He’s too young to have experienced that,” or “Nobody should have to outlive their parents.” The sad truth is, this is just wishful thinking and not necessarily accordant with the laws of nature. Tragedy befalls us all at some point in life, so asking “Why me?” is a self-centered perspective, which is not indicative of the bigger picture.
A Change In Perspective
Understanding that suffering is universal, and not just specific to yourself, you might approach the individual problem of suffering with a different question. Instead of asking “Why me?” a better question might be “Why not me yet?”
When we attune ourselves to the outer world and realize the great feats of suffering others are put through, we develop empathy towards one another. Asking yourself this question will put you in a place of appreciation instead of harboring resentment toward the world.
This to not say your suffering is insignificant.
You will see how many others are much worse off than you. You will develop gratitude for the things you have around you. You might notice you have your health, a roof over your head, people who care about you, a stable support system, and access to quality food, among a litany of other things. After realizing this, you might be able to grasp the great concept of your suffering. You might say, “Yeah, life is tough, and what I’m going through sure isn’t easy. But there are many other things I am grateful for in this world, and compared to other people, maybe I’m not as worse off as I once thought.”
Suffering Is Relative
This to not say your suffering is insignificant. As the Jewish psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl once said:
To draw an analogy: a man’s suffering is similar to the behavior of a gas. If a certain quantity of gas is pumped into an empty chamber, it will fill the chamber completely and evenly, no matter how big the chamber. Thus suffering completely fills the human soul and conscious mind, no matter whether the suffering is great or little. Therefore the “size” of human suffering is absolutely relative.
The thought experiment is intended to orient yourself more toward the outer world and less inside your own inner-perspective. It reminds you that terrible things can happen to you, but as for right now, you have a lot to be thankful for. There might come a day where things will be worse off, so you must appreciate what you have right now and not let it slip through your grasp. Cherish each and every moment you have with people you care about. Enjoy the experiences that life has to offer because there will be a time that each and every one of us experiences the full weight of the world.
So ask yourself, “Why not me yet?”