Every human being is prone to self-pity. We are born self-centered, with a strong urge to protect ourselves and our “rights.”
When we tell ourselves that life has not treated us fairly, or we don’t deserve something that has happened to us, we fall into self-pity.
Self-pity causes us to sulk, pout, lash out, and obsess over our hurts–real or perceived. Interestingly enough, at the heart of self-pity is a false belief that God and life have somehow treated us unfairly. Where do we get off thinking God mistreated us?
Frankly, the biggest clue that self-pity is not of God is the word self. Any time we are focused on ourselves, other than for the purpose of self-reflection and repentance, we are acting out of our flesh. When Self is dominant, God is not.
Oddly enough, sometimes we cling to self-pity because it has become our identity. We may complain about our bad treatment or an injustice we’ve endured; yet, we cling to it like a baby clings to a pacifier. Why do we do this?
I believe we get comfortable and embrace the pain because it gives us the attention–albeit negative attention– that we crave. Again, at the heart of self-pity is self and our selfish desire for attention.
Consider the Bible story of the invalid man at the pool of Bethesda. Here a great number of disabled people used to lie in the hopes of being the first in the stirred up pool where it was said healing occurred. A man who had been there for thirty-eight years was confronted by Jesus with a heart-stopping and life-changing question. Jesus simply said, “Do you want to get well?”
At first read you might say to yourself, “Of course he wants to get well! How insensitive of Jesus.” But I beg to differ. Think about it, we often do the same thing. Though we haven’t waited by a pool for an angel to stir it up so we could get in and be healed, we have all been guilty of waiting around, sometimes for years, feeling sorry for ourselves and rehashing our circumstance rather than TAKING NEW ACTION and changing our lives.
Jesus’ next statement is so life-giving, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.”
Allow me to ask you, “Do you want to get well?”
Do you continue to rehearse and replay that same old story of how your spouse mistreated or even deceived you? Maybe it was a boss who handed you a pink slip ten years ago, or perhaps your desire for a child was never realized. I don’t know what you’re struggling with today, but I do know YOU have a choice in how you’ll respond to your current circumstance.
Your response determines whether you’re a victim or a powerful person. Remember, people don’t make you a victim, you volunteer. Victims blame others for making them feel powerless. But no one can take your power–you give it away. Think about that.
Rejecting the temptation to feel sorry for ourselves is not easy. Life provides many opportunities to experience rejection, injustice, and the cruelty of man. Our natural response is self-protection, which often leads us on the road to self-pity.
However, we can choose a different road. We can refuse to indulge ourself in self-pity and instead choose a grateful heart, trusting that God never allows any trial into our lives without his permission. He will not leave or forsake you. The question is will you turn away from Him and become self-absorbed, or will you turn to Him and cling to His Promise? “It is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.”
It really is that simple. You can choose to be a victim and live in self-pity for years or you can choose to pick up your mat and walk into the freedom God has for you. But first, you must choose to “Get up! And, take that first step.”