If you are in my office, you are probably upset. That’s a given. Upsettedness (I just invented that word) is why I show up every morning. I expect upset. My job is to sort through the issues of upsettedness and encourage people toward more accurate perceptions and proactive life solutions. Numerous Christian and secular counseling strategies claim superiority for achieving those goals. I won’t debate the validity of the various approaches. That would create a really long Mission Fortnight that would draw a decisive and well deserved “delete” from my readers. However I will venture to say that while there are numerous methods that can move us through our upsettedness, there is one approach that always makes it worse. This response actually feeds and nurtures upsettedness. I am talking about self-pity. Self-pity is steroids for upset. It always increases the size and strength of upsettedness to Hulk-like dimensions.
Now, keep in mind: Pain and suffering happen. Heaven knows, the people I counsel in missions have been through difficult circumstances. Feeling upset is a normal response to the inevitable sorrows and wounding that characterize everyone’s life from time to time. On the other hand, staying upset because you feel sorry for yourself should not be a given. If you enjoy upsettedness, then feeling sorry for yourself is THE solution to your suffering. If you’d rather not prolong life’s upsets, keep reading.
The following are some misbeliefs that hold people in a self-pity tailspin. As you read these items take inventory of your own tendencies to feel sorry for yourself:
• My circumstances are special. Few people can understand my unusually difficult hardships. Most self-pitying people believe that everyone else is leading a charmed existence of favor and abundance. They see themselves as being singled out for uncommon suffering.
The truth is: Everybody lives in the same fallen world. Tragedy and sorrow is an equal opportunity experience here on Planet Earth. Generally, people lead mixed lives of joy and sorrow. Nobody escapes with a pain free existence. Sorry to break it to you but you are not special. “Nobody knows the troubles I’ve seen” is a lie. The most honest response to hard times is: In view of the realities of what is happening, what do I need to do? Being proactive and engaging the situation is the opposite of feeling sorry for yourself.
• I am constantly beleaguered by unfair people and events that cheat me out of happiness. Self-pitying people see unrelenting unfairness pouring out of everyone except themselves. They believe that fair is a universal law with their needs and wants at the center.
The truth is: Fair is a weather forecast or a fun summer event with rides and cow awards. Fair is not a God-given right that allows you to get what you want when you want it. Trust me: Your version of fair only spills over into someone else’s version and causes mutual indignation. There is no fair in this life, only grace
• I am hideously at the mercy of stupid and incompetent people who refuse to see the wisdom and rightness of doing things my way. Self-pitying people complain incessantly about their bosses or pastors or supervisors or political leaders. They are convinced that they would do it right if they were in power. Until then, they feel abused by powerful people who are guilty of making their lives difficult.
The truth is: Realistically, even though small minded and inept people exist, they are not conspiring to thwart your happiness. Honestly, if you were in charge, you wouldn’t do any better. You would probably make a worse mess of things. Be a blessing to the people in leadership in your life. Your complaining and resistance is not helping anybody including you.
• The mean people must be punished for hurting me. Self-pitying people are constant victims. Someone is always mistreating them. Getting payback against the evil doers is imperative. At the very least, it’s necessary to withdraw all affection and support until the bad people see the error of their ways and give you the treatment you deserve.
The truth is: You really aren’t as victimized as you think you are. Real victimization exists but probably not in your case. Sorry. It’s true. The minimum wage fast food worker who gets your order wrong doesn’t deserve your wrath. You aren’t living a Shakespearean tragedy. Payback usually ends up hurting you more than the object of your justice. Let it go and move forward. Being a victim wastes time and energy you need to actually accomplish your goals.
The antidote for self-pity is faith. Self-pity says God is unavailable, impotent and/or disinterested in my plight. I cannot trust Him or His plan and feel sorry for myself at the same time. Self-pity denies the incredible blessings that God has given and indicts Him for taking inadequate care of our needs. James 5:13 says, “Is anyone among you suffering? Then he must pray. Is anyone cheerful? He is to sing praises.” Prayer and thanksgiving are appropriate beginning points when you’re drowning in self-pity. Try it. You will probably feel embarrassed that you were complaining in the first place.
Final note: Most of our struggles in the USA are “first world problems”. Have a look at the First World Problems website. It is about the weird stuff we pampered Westerners complain about. Most are pretty funny and sooo true. http://first-world-problems.com/archive
But gee….it’s fortnight. There is nothing to feel sorry for yourself about during fortnight. Go out and enjoy your first world problems….