Why Is Self-Pity So Bad?

I was the new kid in my high school and stuck out like a sore thumb. My classmates couldn’t understand me, and vice versa. Shy and insecure, I was easy prey for those with a mean streak, which resulted in several instances of being bullied and ridiculed. Although it only happened a few times, it nonetheless left a scar on my psyche. When combined with other difficult events and experiences, I reacted in probably the worst possible way: I felt sorry for myself.

When we go through painful circumstances it’s only natural to have emotions like grieving, anger, or hurt. But we get into trouble when those feelings cross over into being a pity party. Why do I say this? Because, consciously or not, we adopt a victim mentality, with its devastating consequences.

I didn’t see it like that back then in high school, of course. All I knew was that I was hurting. It wasn’t until  many years after graduation that I finally noticed that whenever difficulties arose I had a pattern of withdrawing from people and becoming very negative in my outlook, sometimes leading to passivity. All my efforts to reverse these destructive habits were for naught.

Over time, and with God’s help, I finally understood what the root of the problem was: my self-pity. Frankly, I hadn’t even realized that this was an issue! It had been buried so deep inside of me that I had forgotten it was even there. Nonetheless, my ignorance didn’t keep it from wielding its destructive influence.

To this day I remember when God made it abundantly clear that I needed to stop feeling sorry for myself. How did I know? I didn’t hear a loud voice or anything of the sort. I simply had such a strong internal conviction that I couldn’t ignore. This was the work of the Holy Spirit, thanks to whom I just knew what the problem was and what I had to do. The choice was mine. So I told myself: My pity party ends today!

It’s never so simple, of course. But that decision set me firmly on the course towards freedom. It’s been a long process towards change, but the more I’ve rejected self-pity the easier it’s been to do. I’ve noticed that those bad consequences of feeling sorry for myself have mostly disappeared. Do I still struggle at times? Of course I do! However, when I find myself withdrawing or getting negative I know what course of action to take: kick that self-pity out the door!

All of us are different, but God can help each of us deal with the difficulties of life and reign in our negative emotions, regardless of what they may be. The key is to listen to His voice and follow His instructions.

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