Comparison Kills Compassion

One of the main barriers to self-compassion is the false belief that because others have had it "worse than you," you have no right to feel sympathy for yourself.

Comparison Kills Compassion
Candid from a compassion practice during a community Yoga event in 2018.

One of the main barriers to self-compassion is the false belief that because others have had it "worse than you," you have no right to feel sympathy for yourself. This is especially true when it comes to feeling empathy for your own inner child; we often look out into the world and see the hardships endured by the children of lesser-developed or war-torn nations, compare that to what we went through as children, and then convince ourselves that we have no right to feel bad about what we suffered through because it is "nothing" compared to what less fortunate children have gone through.

While perspective is useful, suffering is suffering. And suffering, being a totally internal experience, is relative, meaning that the suffering of a child who has parents in the home but feels unwanted by them is just as valid as the suffering of a child whose parents literally abandoned them on the street. Gaining perspective can work wonders in helping us heal and to gain compassion for what others are going through, but what perspective can never do is totally nullify the impact of the events we personally found traumatic. It is a harmful myth that misery can be measured and that those who've "suffered less" deserve less empathy than those who "suffer more." By understanding how comparison can sabotage compassion, we pave the way for a more empathetic approach to our own pain and to the pain of others.

I'm very aware of the fact that, relatively speaking, my childhood wasn't that bad. The traumas I endured as a child are not that unique or diverse when compared to others who come from a similar background as myself. However, what I also am aware of is that these traumas seemed to affect me much more deeply than they affected other children who were not as sensitive as I was. Sensitivity is simply the capacity to feel. We are all born with different capacities for everything, and that includes the capacity to experience pain. For a long time, I thought that I was just being overly dramatic, overly sensitive, or 'soft' regarding how deeply affected I was by some of the things that I went through as a child because most of the kids I knew had similar childhood experiences as me and seemed largely unbothered by them. I was confused and honestly a bit ashamed by the fact that I couldn't shake these experiences off as easily as others seemingly had. By comparing myself to others and assuming that I should feel similarly to how they did, I blocked myself from fully embracing my own struggles as a child and consequently blocked myself from being able to begin healing them.

This is my first best friend, Matt Culbertson. We grew apart as we got more established in our inherited identities as 'black' & 'white'.

I recently heard Matthew McConaughey give a quote around compassion that goes, "What tickles me might bruise another," and I thought it was a brilliant way of illustrating the dangers of comparing our pains to another's. Having compassion for ourselves means understanding and accepting the fact that we might bruise more easily than others, and that's okay. It does not mean that we are weaker or less capable; it only means that we need to take greater care in how we move in the world and in our relationships. Sensitivity does bring a greater capacity to feel pain, but it also brings a greater capacity to feel joy. And having compassion for myself means not judging myself for being more sensitive than my peers but rather celebrating my sensitivity as a gift that allows me to experience the world in a way that not many other people can.

Given my place as a Black male in America, you might find it strange to hear me say that I often find myself feeling a deep compassion for straight, white men. These days, it seems society has collectively agreed that straight white men are the group of people who deserve the least amount of compassion. We have collectively agreed that straight, white men are responsible for all the evils in the world and therefore, no one should care about how they feel. And while I truly understand this sentiment and have been guilty of perpetuating it in my past, I honestly no longer feel that it's true, fair, or helpful to any of us. I feel compassion for straight, white men for the same reason that I feel compassion for gay, black women, and that is because they are human beings. And as human beings, I am 100% sure that they suffer, just like I do. Sure, their suffering may look very different from mine or yours, but it would be as dehumanizing as a blatant bigot declaring black people as 'sub-human' to assert that the suffering of straight, white males is irrelevant just because they're a part of the 'ruling' socioeconomic group. What we fail to realize is that by denying compassion for anyone else, we are also denying compassion for ourselves. Because what lies at the foundation of compassion is the assertion that we are one. That our experience as human beings is fundamentally connected. As such, the suffering of any human is the suffering of all humans. This is why we must care about what is happening in Gaza, in Sudan, in Ukraine, in Syria, in our own backyards, and most importantly, in our own hearts. Because, as Fannie Lou Hamer succinctly put it, “Nobody’s Free Until Everybody’s Free.”

Shot I took at the 'Free Palestine' March in DC, October 2023.

There would be less war, less poverty, less school shootings, less hate crimes, less suicide, less almost every negative thing if there were more compassion. And while compassion for others is the ultimate goal, compassion must start with ourselves. We have to take an honest audit of ourselves in our current state and not judge what has brought us to where we are but rather look at the experiences we've been through and the choices those experiences have led us to make with loving compassion. The fact is, life does not come with a set of instructions. Whether it looks like it or not, everyone here is doing the best they can with the information they have available. What often appears to be 'evil' is much more often just ignorance, and ignorance is also a result of a lack of compassion. Because once I have fully internalized my own humanity, which includes erring often, I can then accept that the errors that others commit are actually a reflection of their humanity and not a reflection of their lack of humanity. By showing ourselves and others compassion, we create a space where life becomes a softer experience for us all, and once life becomes a softer experience, we no longer will feel the need to be so violent and defensive with one another in an attempt to protect ourselves. It is often said that death is the great unifier, but before we get to death, suffering is something else that is universal and, in my opinion, uniquely human. All animals have the capacity to experience pain, but in my opinion, suffering requires a level of self-consciousness that only humans have the capacity to experience. And once we accept that suffering is a hallmark of humanity, we can start to embrace our own suffering, which will help us embrace the suffering of others, and only from there can we work to relieve suffering for us all.

Growth Challenge

Extending Compassion To Those Who've Hurt Us

Objective: To deepen our capacity for compassion for ourselves & others by recognizing the inherent worth in every individual, including those we've previously viewed as irredeemable.
Challenge: Extend compassion towards someone you've previously felt didn't deserve compassion. This could be someone from your personal life or a public figure who has caused you or those you care about pain and suffering.


  1. Identify and Reflect: Choose someone who has hurt you or someone you care about or someone who you wouldn't naturally feel compassionate towards. This could range from a personal acquaintance to a public figure whose actions you disagree with.
  2. Understand Their Journey: Reflect on the possible life experiences, struggles, or unmet needs that may have contributed to this person's behaviors or beliefs. Consider their shared human desires for love, security, and acceptance, recognizing the complexity of their humanity.
  3. Imagine Their Childhood: If possible, imagine this person as a child, innocent and unshaped by the world. Think about the circumstances that might have led them from that state of innocence to where they are now. This step is not to excuse harmful behavior but to understand its origins.
  4. Confront Your Resistance: Notice any emotional resistance you feel towards extending compassion. Reflect on the source of this resistance and what it reveals about your own experiences, fears, or values.
  5. Prioritize Emotional Safety: Engage in this challenge from a place of emotional stability. If at any point you feel overwhelmed, show compassion towards yourself by pausing, taking a step back, and then trying again once you feel more grounded.

Further Study

I recently came across a compelling podcast featuring Dr. Gabor Maté, a renowned expert on childhood trauma and its enduring effects into adulthood. In the episode, he sheds light on the profound impact of seemingly subtle experiences, such as the feeling of being unseen, and how these can constitute deep trauma for a child. This discussion really resonated with me and aligns with the theme of this newsletter as it challenges the common belief that trauma is only valid if it stems from overt physical or verbal abuse. Dr. Maté's insights, especially around the 20-minute mark, delve into lesser-recognized forms of trauma, offering a broader and more nuanced understanding of its roots. The entire episode is enlightening, but his exploration of these subtle traumas is particularly fascinating.

Direct Link:

What's Going On With Me?

I've officially been in Pittsburgh for over a month now, though I've spent the vast majority of my time here within the four walls of my apartment. I'm not a huge fan of the cold so I'm looking forward to spring and its warmer weather to entice me to spend more time outside exploring the city. I sold my last bike before I left DC because I didn't have room to bring it with me so I'm really looking forward to buying another one soon and getting back to my rides.

I feel like i'm constantly evolving spiritually but this evolution has been heightened over the past 5 or 6 months and that's honestly contributed to me being inside and to myself so much as well. I haven't really been in the mood to go out and meet people just yet so I'm going to spend the rest of the winter going within and working to meet myself at deeper and deeper levels. I'm still sort of in this in-between space where I've physically fully transitioned out of the last era of my life but still haven't fully mentally transitioned into this new era - it's a bit of a limbo where I don't feel that connected right now, if I'm being honest. But I'm trusting the process and leaning on my faith that I'm right where I'm supposed to be.

I will say that I'm proud of myself for staying consistent with the newsletter despite the challenges life has brought me. I'm taking a loved one's advice and trying to make the newsletters a little shorter going forward. Brevity has never really been my strong suit but out of respect for your time and because I know an effective writer gets their point across with as few words as necessary, I'm going to continue work on getting my ideas out clearly and concisely.

I'm feeling called to share my actual voice and plan on starting to make video content again really soon but it's been a long time since I've spoken on camera and my confidence in doing so has dropped a bit so it's taking some extra time for me to muster up the will to start again.

What's Going On With You?

Feel free to reach out to me ( and let me know who you are and how you're doing. I'd love to know what kind of growth is happening in your life right now and if we can support each other in our respective journeys. If you have any questions for me or any suggestions for subjects for future newsletters, I'd love to hear those as well. Or maybe just sharing something that has inspired you and you think I'd like too - my goal is for this newsletter to be a community to so please never think this is a one way street where I'm talking at you and not open to hearing what you have to say because that's not the cast at all.

As always, thanks for being here with me, and I'll catch you next week! 💜