Ever been sharing with a friend about a tough situation in your life, maybe even bordering on self-pity, when they say “well, it could be worse.” Or more specifically, “you could have cancer like so-and-so” or “you could have _____ (insert frightening possibility here).” I get the intention behind these statements; I’ve even used this tactic a few times myself. It can bring perspective. But it is not a solution to self-pity, or worry, or anything else for that matter. This thinking only encourages “life comparison,” which is a precursor to self-pity.
Self-pity cannot be eradicated with the realization or reminder that others have it worse. Because for every person who has it worse than us, there is another who seems to have it better. …and so the comparison game goes on.
At the end of part 1 from last week, I asked how we can combat self-pity. Google it and you’ll see a variety of approaches. I’d like to share mine.
Let’s review what we know about self-pity:
- Self-pity purports that I deserve a certain kind of life. (Where does this thinking originate? Why should I be so privileged?)
- Self-pity keeps me focused on myself. (What happens when you are the center of your circumstances and relationships?)
- Self-pity convinces me that I am a victim of my own life. (What about personal responsibility and the freedom to choose your own response?)
At the root of these is pride. Self-pity’s inner-dialogue may distract us from this truth, so let this reminder go deep in your heart. There are several ways to prevent or eradicate self-pity:
- Remember who God is: He is the sovereign creator who sees all things while I am one person with a limited perspective…and a poor long-term memory.
- Renew your trust in his providence and omniscience: Whatever my life circumstances are, God is at work – sickness, failure, bankruptcy etc.
- Rehearse his past faithfulness: See #1 above regarding my poor long-term memory. It is a blessed discipline to intentionally recite God’s past works in your life.
Let’s remember the implications of our self-pity and what this reveals about us and our God. Remember this can help move us towards humility, away from pride.
Those who pity themselves because of the circumstances of their lives fail to see God at work in them, while the faithful understand that God always has their best and eternal interests at heart.