“First World Problem” is a term I’ve been hearing a lot lately. When I hear it, my gut reaction is to feel embarrassed, guilty, superficial, you name it. By first-world standards, I live a fairly modest life. But by third-world standards I’m wealthy and don’t have much to complain about.
I acknowledge that relatively speaking, it is a privilege to have first-world problems. There are people in third-world countries whose daily mission is to get enough calories to make it through another day. Issues like spirituality, promoting high self-esteem in children, and carving out time for date-nights are not on their radar. Decluttering to prepare for an influx of Christmas presents certainly isn’t on their radar. In our world, it’s easy to lose sight of this.
The question is: how do we handle our first-world problems while increasing our awareness of third-world problems? Unless we drastically change our lifestyle, which I don’t believe that everyone is called to do, our first-world problems aren’t going anywhere even if we make great strides in becoming more grateful and doing more to help people who face third-world problems.
I’ve noticed that some bloggers have started to address this issue by occasionally prefacing their columns with disclaimers that the upcoming post is about a first-world issue. This is certainly a valid approach, one that promotes awareness and gratitude. But it’s probably not realistic to include this type of disclaimer in every blog post.
Another option would be to dispense with blog posts about first-world problems. But as I said earlier, ignoring the first-world problems isn’t going to make them go away. I’m thankful that I don’t have to worry about where my son’s next meal is coming from, but I don’t think that makes me completely superficial for worrying about the possibility of him being bullied at school.
So what is the answer? The best I’ve been able to come up with is to be mindful of our blessings every time we seek solutions for first-world problems. We need to constantly assess which problems really are too superficial to waste time pursuing. And, we need to be aware of what more we as individuals can do to help people who are facing third-world problems. The process is going to look different for everyone, since everything is relative.
Does anyone else have any suggestions on how to handle this? I would love to hear your thoughts!
Claire is a regular writer on Catholic Mothers Online.