Tragedy is not a contest.

peace Paris Red Hong Yi


To those who are saying, “France is a big deal but it’s getting more coverage than other tragedies” — I would humbly and kindly ask to look up the Fallacy of Relative Privation.

It’s possible that we can care about one tragedy without pitting it against another (which is just crazy, when you think about it). Saying “Well what about __” doesn’t address the original problem and ultimately dishonors the real human lives we lost in all of them.

It’s possible to educate others and bring awareness of what’s neglected without condescending or competing by numbers.

It’s possible to both pray and donate; there’s enough time in the day for both.

It’s possible just to grieve and be angry and weep right now instead of using tragedy as a platform for politics or a spiritual lesson or a moral epiphany (and I realize I’m in danger of doing the same — yet I’m truly grieving, too).

Neglecting to say something on social media is not equivalent to apathy, and mentioning something on social media is not equivalent to empathy. It’s also unfair to be guilt-tripped by either. It’s okay if you don’t accordingly change your profile picture. It’s also unfair to accuse someone of being shallow if they change their profile picture.

It’s impossible to boycott everything and protest everything and raise awareness on everything, as much as we’d like to. By the time we figure out one problem, another comes along. It’s a fruitless exercise and only spreads us thin: and much better to use our limited resources and individual gifting and unique voices to deeply care about a few things as best as we possibly can. It’s possible to fully invest in one or two, and that’s how movements start.

There are many, many ways to care. We need all of them. There’s not enough time to care about everything, but there’s too much time wasted on nothing, and if each of us could care deeply about some things, we could find each other and cover almost everything.

J.S.



Art used with permission by Red Hong Yi

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9 thoughts on “Tragedy is not a contest.

  1. This post really inspired me. It’s so easy to get confused with the cacophony of political voices that scream for attention whenever a tragedy like this strikes. Thank you for these wise words.

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  2. I once heard it said that claiming one cannot be sad because others have it worse is liking claiming one cannot be happy because others have it better. The truth in that statement seems to apply here.

    In a similar vein, I wrote a somewhat brief post on the observed Christian response to the Syrian refugee crisis and how refusing hospitality seems to defy the most basic suppositions of our faith. I’d love to hear your thoughts if you can find the time. Thanks, as always, for writing.

    http://evangelicalmusings.org/2015/11/13/strangers-aliens-christian-ethics-the-syrian-refugee-crisis/

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    1. Thank you. I’ve been asked what I think about the Syrian refugee crisis (as if my “thoughts” can really do all that much), and I’m unfortunately uninformed about the matter. I don’t want to be one more half-informed opinion; I’ll have to read your post, too. The situation reminds me of the North Korean refugee crisis ten years ago, which is still ongoing, and is a difficult dilemma all around. I’d honestly have to look more into it rather than jumping on it with little to no info.

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  3. It’s as if our world is black and white. We can either post something or not, and based on our actions, we show the world we either have empathy or apathy. Thanks for telling us that our world is not in black and white. Because, you’re right, it’s “impossible to boycott everything and protest everything and raise awareness on everything…” We have to do something called living our lives.

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    1. Empathy, yes. One of the things I’m learning is that one of the worst sources of empathy is social media. While I’m all for mass communication and spreading awareness, it’s what we say and do at ground level that really matters, whether that’s to become an influence or to influence the ones who can do something, too.

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