The Seductive Song of Self-Pity

by Michael Kelley May 8, 2015

Her voice is soft and melodic; it’s sweet to the ear and soothing to the tired heart. She whispers not during the seasons of joy, but instead during those times of trial. When you’re tired and weary. When the responsibility is great, and when busyness abounds. I feel her scratch my itching ears with her words, saying just what I wish I heard from the people around me. And here’s what she sounds like:

“No one understands what’s happening in your life.”

“No one knows how much you have to bear.”

“No one sympathizes with the weight of responsibility.”

“Sure, you could try to tell someone, but what good would that do?”

She sings this seductive song of self-pity over and over again. And with each beautiful refrain, I find myself nodding my head in agreement and descending further into my own isolation, insulated by the determination that no one indeed does understand the season of life in which I find myself. She sings, and I listen, and it feels really good. My resentment is justified; my sense of pride in hard work is bolstered; my superiority over others who, unlike me, aren’t awake at this hour or aren’t sacrificing like I am is built.

Self-pity is a ladder builder; she helps me construct that apparatus which I climb on so I can peer smugly over the heads of those I’ve left far below me.

And it feels so good. What makes it feel even better is, unlike so many times when you have the sense your pride is wrong and unjustified, in the case of self-pity, it feels right. That’s the best kind of pride of all.

And that’s the worst kind of pride of all.

It’s the kind of pride that mitigates any sacrifice you or I might make because it devalues those you are supposedly sacrificing for. That supposed sacrifice is only another means of bolstering our already well-bolstered egos.

Will you make sacrifices today? Will you get up early or stay up late? Will you find yourself doing things that others will not? Do you find yourself in a season of trial? If you do, then she will be singing to you, and her song will be sweet, reminding you just how special you are and how (though she would never say it like this), much better you are.

Though we might hear the seductive song of self-pity, there is another song we might play louder in our souls. We can crank up the volume on this one so that it drowns out the sappy resonance of self-indulgence. This new song is a lot older. And it’s lyrics are a lot better. The tune builds as you sing each line, and it’s focus is not on the anemic sacrifices we make but on the true and great sacrifice that was made on our behalf. It’s the song that the self-righteous and self-focused have sung for years as a means of taking their focus off of themselves and putting it where it belongs:

3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.

5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

6 Who, being in very natureGod,
    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
7 rather, he made himself nothing
    by taking the very nature of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man,
    he humbled himself
    by becoming obedient to death—
        even death on a cross!

9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
    and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
    in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
    to the glory of God the Father.

Play it again Lord. And I’ll turn it up.