Empathize With Those Who Suffered Less
It is important to empathize with people who have suffered less than you.
I have suffered from many health problems and still try to empathize with people who have suffered less.
We all naturally do this with kids. Most kids have not lived long enough to suffer much, yet their hurt and sorrow is still real. Maybe they lost their dog, and you lost your (human) friend. Your suffering is greater. Theirs is still real.
That Stung, Why?
I was telling a friend recently about my lowest financial point. I had $60 to my name. As long as I can remember having money, I’ve had more than that. It was kinda scary.
They dismissed it saying “You don’t have bills”. “I have health insurance, medical bills, etc.”
That stung, and I asked myself why. It wasn’t something new, I’d heard it many times. People often dismiss my opinions on money allegedly because I’m young (I get my opinions from old wise people they dismiss for other reasons). But this was different somehow.
I wasn’t trying to make a point. I wasn’t stating my opinion. I was just sharing a painful experience. I wanted to be heard, not to convince someone else.
My friend’s financial situation is worse than mine was. Given their numbers it seems like they could make ends meet with some strategy, help, and discipline. But I still don’t begrudge them the fact that it’s difficult and painful to be in that situation and it’s difficult and painful to get out of it.
My financial pain feels just as real even though my situation wasn’t as bad. Using the example above, maybe it’s like I lost a dog and you lost a friend. But the suffering is just as real in both cases.
I’m still living at home, but I didn’t want to accept money from my parents. At my lowest point I still accepted some money a couple times. (I didn’t have to pay car insurance that month, or a similar dollar amount in help).
Fear & A Financial Low Point
I was really good at making use of the money I had, but terrible at making it. I would spend an hour to save $5 when I could have spent the same hour to make $15.
I was making ~$200 a month and spending ~$300 on medical bills and car insurance.
I cut deeper than my friend. I didn’t spend any “fun money” at all for at least 3 months and was very limited in what I did spend when I spent it over several more months.
I don’t recommend doing that unless you have to.
I’m still working through the irrational fear of running out of money I picked up during that time. It’s funny sometimes if I say it out loud (or write it down). I felt a fear of running out of money when I was considering buying a pillow.
Think about that for a minute.
I get that fear with large purchases as well, but that one stuck out to me. Spending 1-1.5% of my net worth should not evoke fear.
The hardest part is spending money on things that save me time and grief. It feels wrong even if it’s the right logical move. I was so used to spending lots of time to save little bits of money that it was hard to change.
I have a set amount of fun money to spend each month now. I’ve found it doesn’t take much. My most expensive fun purchase these days is typically audiobooks. For $10-$20 I can get an audiobook and a song or two. I like those options because when I buy them I can listen to them as many times as I want.
I typically do free-to-me stuff with my friends. I’d be willing to pitch in money-wise to people who invite me over often, but I feel like most of them would rather I just accept the gift.
That’s a side principle: There are some times where I would be perfectly happy to, and even prefer to pay for something. But I let someone else pay for it because that is more of a gift to them than the money they spent. I could have insisted that one of my friends not buy me lunch before he went to college, but he wouldn’t have liked that outcome. He wasn’t in financial trouble, so I accepted his gift.
He also wasn’t expecting anything in return. It wasn’t a “I’ll do this so you’ll do that”. It was just a gift.
When I started to get over self-pity with my health problems and learned where my limits actually were (as opposed to where I thought they were), I was able to keep pace with the necessary expenses. God provided through work and my trust in Him. And that’s when He provided an opportunity to get a much better paying part-time job I could still do with my limitations. I still make less than many people pay in rent, but it’s a good opportunity to learn.
I’m glad I went through that low point before I started making money. I make better use of money now then I would have if I had just started making money.
I’m also glad I got dismissed by my friend because it made me think about why it bothered me. I pray that will help me be more empathetic to others in the future.