Happy Memorial Day!
We can familiarize ourselves with the will of nature by calling to mind our common experiences. When a friend breaks a glass, we are quick to say, ‘Oh, bad luck.’ It’s only reasonable, then, that when a glass of your own breaks, you accept it in the same patient spirit. Moving on to graver things: when somebody’s wife or child dies, to a man we all routinely say, ‘Well, that’s part of life.’ But if one of our own family is involved, then right away it’s ‘Poor, poor me!’ We would do better to remember how we react when a similar loss afflicts others. (Epictetus - Enchiridion XXVI)
If you hear that your neighbor has a busted water heater, do you sympathetically worry that he will go broke dealing with it? Most likely, you take it with a shrug and figure he’ll work it out with no significant impact on his lifestyle. But at your own house, the possibility of a significant home repair bill is cause for great concern. Is it because your neighbor is more capable than you?
It’s natural, but not reasonable, to feel like your challenges are of greater importance than those encountered by others. They’re simply closer. To get a more objective perspective, it’s often helpful to take a step back and view your obstacles as if you were a disinterested, but sympathetic, 3rd party. Would someone in that role be concerned for you? Or would they see the situation as one of the sort that people encounter daily, and daily navigate without injury?