Tragedy and misfortune strike people every day. We open the newspaper and read about terrible things that happen to others. We ourselves are not immune to having bad things happen in our lives. As bad as these things are, there is something even worse than the tragedy itself. It is self-pity.
You can see how this can happen. People get immersed in a horrible experience and their energy is sapped and their defenses are down and it becomes easy to fall into the trap of self-pity. They begin to dwell on their hurts and hardships, whether real or imagined, and begin to enjoy talking about them and sharing them with others.
Self-Pity a Luxury?
Why do I call it a luxury? The dictionary tells us that a luxury is something we indulge in, is something we enjoy, is costly and is not necessary. Self-pity fits that description perfectly.
Wallowing in self-pity, like all habits, is hard to overcome once we become accustomed to it. We become comfortable with it and find that it’s hard to do without. We look for others to commiserate and sympathize with. But self-pity is unproductive. It causes us to be bitter and unforgiving and resentful. Self-pity doesn’t bring people together – it divides them. When you throw a pity party, you are the only invited guest.
Self-Pity and Self-Image
Self-pity allows us to feel that we are victims. It’s how we begin to define ourselves. It creates a distorted feeling of security. It gives us an excuse for not trying. It creates in us a “What’s-the-use attitude.” It’s been said that the nice thing about self-pity is that if you can’t get others to feel sorry for you, you can still feel sorry for yourself.
Self-Pity and Self-Destruction
I’ve known people who have been in horrible marriages. Maybe their spouse had a problem with drugs or gambling or is an alcoholic. They have experienced untold suffering. We know they have because of their constant complaining to others. They are continually looking for a shoulder to cry on. Their life seems to always be full of drama.
Strange as it may seem, when that person finally ends the relationship they are unhappy. They have nothing to complain about anymore. No one feels sorry for them anymore. They don’t get the attention they once had. They no longer have a crutch to lean on and are expected to live a normal life just like everybody else. This is a real blow.
Invariably the injured person goes out and marries someone as bad or worse than their first spouse. They find another drug-addict, wife-beater, alcoholic or gambler to marry so they can indulge in self-pity again.
It’s natural for us at times to feel sorry for ourselves. We’ve all done it before and in reality it can help ease the pain of our trials. But when it turns into who we are and we continue to dwell on it and convince ourselves that we are victims and are in the hands of some uncontrollable fate, then it becomes detrimental to our well being.
If we permit ourselves to dwell upon our past hurts and injuries we are more likely to use them to justify our yielding to other destructive habits such as over-eating or drinking. We seem to think, “You would do the same if it happened to you.”
Self-Pity is for Losers
This may sound harsh but there are some who are losers because they want to be losers. They may not even be aware of it yet it is true. If things start to go well for them they get worried and concerned. They feel it can’t last. They then begin to self-sabotage their success. Why? Because they have become so used to feeling a certain way that the new feelings are uncomfortable to them. Since they have concluded that a loser is who they are then success is out of harmony with their self-image. They can’t stand that feeling.
It reminds me of a time when I needed to stop over at my church to pick up some papers. I was in my grubby work-in-the-yard clothes. I just needed to run in, grab what I needed, and leave. As I entered the church I realized there was another event taking place and everyone there was dressed in their Sunday best. I felt so out of place. I felt so uncomfortable. I wanted to get out of there as soon as I could and get back into the dirty and grimy environment of my yard work. I think that is why some people feel so uncomfortable when things start to go good in their lives. It is not compatible with the concept they have of themselves.
The solution is to realize that your unhappiness is caused by your self-centeredness. When you are continually focused on yourself it comes at the price of excluding all others. This self-absorption is like a fence around you that keeps out those who could lend you a hand. You have to take the focus off yourself and begin to see that there are those around you who also have trials and struggles in their lives and you can be someone they can lean on. And as you open up and reach out to help others, they in turn can help you.
Another way out of self-pity is through forgiveness – meaning your forgiveness of others. As you begin to forgive others of the perceived hurts and wrongs they have committed towards you, you can begin to heal and let go of the pain and self-pity. Is this easy? Not by a long shot. Is it necessary? Absolutely.
Helen Keller said,
Self-pity is our worst enemy and if we yield to it, we can never do anything good in the world.
Let us rise above self-pity and use our efforts and energies for more fulfilling and positive endeavors.