Why are some people’s lives objectively harder than others?
Yes, “everyone has their shit,” but still, since the dawn of time this question has plagued philosophers, clergymen, doctors, artists, and yes, even us mere mortals. I myself have looked at those around me and pondered this great mystery. But isn’t it funny. The answer is perhaps quite simple.
A few years ago, right when I moved back to DC, I entered into a depressive episode. I couldn’t fight my way out of the hole and even TMS boosters weren’t really doing the trick. I wondered where/how to get help. I even prayed if you can believe it (which as a pretty crappy Catholic was quite the scene). I pleaded with God for answers as to why I struggled with mental health while others appeared to be skipping blissfully through life.
Then one fall day I said “Okay, we’re going to have this conversation on your turf.” I drove to church after church demanding to speak with a priest, a nun, heck, I would’ve taken the altar boy at that point. Expecting, I suppose, I’d get some divine grace and explanation.
After about four stops a priest at a local Catholic church of which I had never attended welcomed me and walked me into his office. He was young, but had this mature, calming nature. And then there was me, all huffing and puffing, practically in a panic trying to find an answer to the transcendental debate: why my life (in that moment) seemed so much harder than others. I acknowledge how self-centered this sounds. And that it’s shallow and very first world of me. Oh, and yes, I’m a bit ashamed I ever had this mentality. But I was desperate. The depression was sounding alarms around me, and I just wanted to escape it.
So this priest sat me down and answered my question: “Why is one life seemingly harder than another?” Without so much as asking my creed, let alone if I believed in God, he replied with a simple explanation that has stuck with me for years. Priest explains:
- So you have saints. And some saints lead these long, remarkable, even charmed lives.
And then you have another group of saints who suffer. Who live through trials and tribulations. Who are sometimes martyred on their quest to fulfill “duty and purpose.”
- For the first group of saints, those with the “easier” lives as you’ve called them, they have small glasses.
- For the second group of saints, those with the “hard” lives, they have big glasses.
- Both groups have glasses, and although they are different sizes, one glass is not better than the other.
- Imagine each glass signifies grace, or for the purpose of this conversation, happiness.
- The saints with the smaller glasses will naturally fill theirs first. They will more quickly be brimming with God’s grace; more “easily” (one could argue) finding peace and joy.
- But for saints with the big glasses, the “hard” lives, well, it takes longer to fill them up. There are more of life’s tests to overcome. Why? Because the reward for passing is remarkable.
Because once the “big glass” saints do manage to sustain all the blows, their now full glasses have more love, more joy, and more happiness than the small glasses.
They have more jubilation than they ever could have dreamed. It just took a little longer because they had more space to fill in that big glass.
- Remember, one is not better than the other. It’s simply to say that once those big glasses get full, the keeper leads the most rich, fulfilled life. They have in their possession “more” (not to be confused with better) grace and happiness than the “small glass saints.” Whether on this earth or in heaven.
Now, I like to think your religious affiliation makes no difference here. The priest’s point rings true. Some lives are harder. Some people have got a longer journey, a greater purpose, and it takes much “more” to fill their “glass.” To be “happy.” They need to overcome hardships and great strains. Grief and losses. But once they do…once they go to battle (for me it’s with depression and bipolar disorder) and live to the next day, month, year, they will eventually be filled with more joy and happiness than they ever could if they had the small glass. More grace.
The nihilists and atheists in the crowd may not believe in all this theological ideology. But me, I choose to have faith. And I rest a little easier believing there’s meaning behind some of us having “big glasses.” I believe, without a shadow of a doubt (most days), that I am destined to live a much richer life because I have faced my demons. Because I had faith. Because I won. Because I live.