Today is going to be a difficult day for me–actually, it could be the beginning of several difficult days. I am going to be dealing with some hardship, some deprivation, and a loss of my (perceived) ability to function effectively. The reason: my laptop needs to go in for repairs and I probably will not have it back for a couple of days.
Now, I have been planning for this process. I worked out with the repair shop the best time to be without the laptop–it’s not that I don’t need it for the two or three days but that these are the days I need it less. I will be transferring the most necessary files, the ones that I will be working on (I hope) to my tablet and if I get really desperate, there is that old, obsolete laptop on a shelf in the TV room. I suppose for that matter, I could even do some work on my phone. I will survive but it won’t be pretty or fun.
I know that compared to the pain and suffering in the world, not having my laptop for a couple of days really isn’t all that much of an issue. I know some people, in fact, who would see not having a laptop for a couple of days as something of a blessing. Others might think that I probably need to re-adjust my priorities and think about what it really important. There are some, however, who might be prompted to send my sympathy cards because losing their laptop would severely traumatize them.
When it comes to dealing with the pain and difficulty of others, we all need to look at the fact that we are tempted to evaluate the suffering of others on the basis of our experience and our understanding. What upsets us must be traumatic for others and what doesn’t upset us is something others should be able to deal with easily. When we give in to this temptation and evaluate their situation from our perspective, we are not likely going to be able to provide real help to the person going through whatever they are going through.
If we think the situation isn’t that serious, we will have a tendency to down-play whatever they are going through. Our approach will often be to try and help them see that having their laptop sit in the shop for a couple of days isn’t all that much of a problem and may even be a blessing in disguise. We might suggest all sorts of possible options the person has: the tablet, the smart phone, the old computer–why, the laptop deprived individual might even appreciate the opportunity to rediscover pen and paper, an old but still viable technology.
When that doesn’t work, the helpers might try to force comparisons on the person–suggesting that an unavailable laptop really isn’t that much of a problem when compared to starvation, genocide and other things that people face. This approach became popular as “I used to complain about having no shoes until I met a man with no feet”.
There is also the “dose of reality” approach, which somewhat confrontationally tells the person to get over it–its only a laptop and only a couple of days and really isn’t the end of the world so just snap out of it and stop whining or moaning or whatever.
These all sound like proper and appropriate ways to help someone deal with a problem that we are pretty sure isn’t as much of a problem as they think it is. Obviously, our job as helpers is to convince them that what they are dealing with isn’t a problem, or at least isn’t as much of a problem as they think it is. Once we succeed in helping them see the problem in the right way (our way, of course), then the problem is solved and everything is fine.
Except it isn’t fine. We don’t really help people by trying to convince them that because we don’t think the problem is significant, they should think the same way. In the end, people need to deal with their issues based on what they think about the issue, not what we think about the issue. Trying to revise their thinking so that they see things like we see them doesn’t help–it just adds a layer of frustration and more pain to the problem.
May the peace of God be with you.
Mathe peace of God be with you.