If I look hard enough, I can always find some reason to feel sorry for myself. I bet you can, too. Whether your gaze drifts to your bank account, your work, your health, your relationships – there is always some circumstances in our lives that can make us feel victimized.
And it feels good to do that, doesn’t it? It feels good to play the role of constantly being misunderstood or mistreated. It’s a soothing balm to listen to that voice inside of us that tells us that no one relates or that our difficulties are unique to the human condition. What’s more, sometimes it’s even true, or at least mostly true.
There are real occasions when we really are mistreated and misunderstood. We know what it feels like to be taken advantage of. We know the sting of not being acknowledged. We are familiar with the pain of being looked down upon and no one noticing. These are all reasons why self-pity is so seductive to our souls. And after all, what’s the harm of giving into it?
There is, though, harm that comes from adopting an attitude of feeling sorry for oneself. There is real danger for our souls in fact. Just to be clear, we are not talking about sadness here. Nor are we talking about mourning. We are talking about living in a posture of the victim – that our modus operandi is to immediately consider ourselves stricken by life, or by God. That’s where the danger lies. And that’s why we should take active steps to fight self-pity. Here are three reasons why it’s dangerous, and why we should engage in fighting it:
1. Because self-pity a subtle form of pride.
We think of pride as thinking too much of ourselves. It certainly is that, but humility is not the same thing as self-debasement. The Bible, though it tells us to pursue humility, never allows us to drift into self-loathing or self-pity. Rather, we are told to have a sober estimation of ourselves (Rom. 12:3). We are to think of ourselves accurately. Truthfully. And when we major in self-pity, we aren’t acting in humility – we are acting in pride.
For what is pride except having our eyes focused on ourselves? And what are we doing when we live in self-pity other than constantly looking at our problems, our issues, and our struggles? Ironically, this is one of the reasons why self-pity is dangerous for our souls. It’s a subtle form of pride we are allowing into our hearts.
2. Because self-pity a commentary on God’s goodness.
Our attitude reflects our theology. Though we might not immediately recognize the link, it’s there just below the surface.
Do we really believe God is sovereign? That He is loving? That He is faithful? We might verbally agree to these statements, but our attitudes will tell the real story. In this respect, self-pity is not just a flaw in our attitude; it’s a distortion of our theology. When we constantly play the victim and feel sorry for ourselves, we are testifying about what we truly believe about God.
3. Because self-pity is a gateway to entitlement.
Self-pity is an internal form of self-indulgence. We might tell ourselves that nobody notices, and perhaps that’s true. We might tell ourselves that it doesn’t hurt anyone, and that might also be true. Nevertheless, when we give into the temptation to self-pity, we are opening the door to other kinds of self-indulgence which might be even more harmful.
One of the side effects of self-pity is the thought that we are entitled to something - some substance or some habit. Something other than Jesus in which we find our relief, comfort, and satisfaction. We deserve this, or so self-pity tells us.
You may or may not have reason for self-pity today. If you do, there is good reason to fight that impulse. There is reason to turn your eyes from self to Jesus and fix them there and continue to walk forward with Him.
Editor's Note: This post originally appeared at Michael's blog.