Edith Eva Egar was taken to Auschwitz when she was 16 years old. Suffering grossly she said one of the greatest things that got her mentally through the war was remembering her mother telling her, just before entering the camp, that “They cannot take from you what you put into your own mind”.
She found liberation in her mind by choosing to possess what could never be taken away, her own true self inside. After liberation, she went on to marry, immigrate to the United States, and earned her Ph.D. She became a well-known doctor in Psychiatry. I recently enjoyed the memoir she wrote called The Choice.
My biggest personal takeaway from her memoir was an experience she related where one day, while in her practice, she had two appointments back to back with two middle-aged mothers. At the first appointment, the woman cried through much of the appointment. She was grieving the inevitable loss of her terminally ill child.
The second appointment came right from the country club and she too cried through much of her appointment. She was grieving over the disappointment of her new luxury car being the wrong shade of yellow.
It is inherent in us to judge the first woman as worthy of sorrow and the second woman unworthy to grieve. As humans we tend to judge sorrow as either worthy of our attention or not worthy.
Dr. Egar, with all her deep experience with loss and grief, sheds a deeper light on the situation. She explains that both women are equally worthy of our attention and compassion, as each is suffering. “There is no hierarchy to suffering.” It is all human suffering.
Dr. Egar said that she knew the second woman well enough to know that it was not the shade of yellow that she was truly mourning. She was suffering through the difficulty of seeing her son struggle, an unfulfilled marriage, and other life dreams never realized.
All suffering is worthy! Worthy of our compassion, attention, and care. This truth, when believed, is so liberating. Liberating because we no longer need to evaluate if another’s sorrow is worthy.
Equally liberating is that this truth allows us to free ourselves from our own judgments. All of our own suffering is worthy too; to be seen, acknowledged, felt, and healed. We don’t need to apologize because our suffering appears to be unworthy when compared to what could be or to what is for another. We can just allow it and drop the judgment part. ALL suffering is WORTHY!
When we apply this to our relationship with God it also allows us to more easily approach Him without shame. He loves us without equivocation. We are worthy because we are His child, worthy in our very existence to be seen. He knows and desires to help us heal our sorrows.
It is liberating to allow. It is freeing to feel. No judgments needed. We are worthy and so is our suffering.