Sometimes we can find ourselves in dangerous situations – we can balance precariously on the edge of our existence, trying to hold ourselves together while internally falling apart. Life is not fair. Relationships are hard. Situations are not ever 100% ideal this side of heaven. And we live with an internal longing for the peace and fulfillment of our lives to be consistent realities.
I have found when it comes to self-image, a healthy thought life and a pure heart there is a very dangerous combination of emotions that can pull me off track faster than most things. It’s a vicious cocktail of anger, arrogance and greed, with the innocent sheen of immaturity that I wish we would one day be able to graduate from: self-pity.
Before you close up and begin to agree – making a mental list of the people you might send this blog to – I want to make it super clear that I have yet to find someone who is not vulnerable to this kind of toxic thinking. In fact, it is in moments when I have felt the most independent and confident that I became most prone to fall for the insecurity of pitying myself. We all find ourselves feeling sad. Everyone on earth will have a reason why they could feel sorry for themselves – no ones’ life will ever be perfect. But it is up to us to decide whether we are going to face the emotion and the situations and get over them, or wallow in our egocentric messes.
When we are faced with a potential pity party moment, I have learnt that there are a few elements that can help us realize what is happening in our souls.
It all hinges on expectation
No one can be disappointed without expecting something. When our inner expectations are not met – the hopes and innocent dreams that you secretly nurse – it is very hard to guard against disappointment that in turn results in self-pity.
But why do we have expectations? I have met some people who have completely resigned themselves from life and any expectation. These people actually end up struggling more than most. So the absence of expectation is not the answer to avoiding self-pity. In fact, expectation is a key part of who we are – it points towards an ideal world where everything is good.
I believe that expectations are an indication that there is a better future – and ultimately a desire for heaven. Under the rule of God it is promised that there will be no weeping, no hurt, no suffering as well as parties and opulent beauty. As we sit this side of eternity, our souls still long to see that reality in our lives – and that is where the longing for something greater can lead to relationship with God.
Outside of a relationship with God, I have found it impossible to satisfy my expectations in any area. There will always be a longing for more. Achieving goals and external milestones are great, but there will never be a sustainable experience of ultimate perfection until heaven.
The attention factor
Whenever I am paddling around the self-pity pool, I have found it linked to not feeling like people see or care about me. When others are not consoling, acknowledging or including you – the easiest thing to do is give yourself the attention no one else deigns to offer. Now, I don’t want to excuse any sort of behavior – sometimes people never graduate from being a middle-school bully. Sometimes people are so self-absorbed in their own insecurities that they won’t recognize others. But there is a point where we can allow our sensitivity to destroy our perspective of the world around us.
Just because people don’t engage with you on the levels you desire every hour of the day does not mean that you are ignored or mean less to those around you. Self-pity will send the message that everything is not OK, but it will also cause you to self-destruct. The only way I have learnt to bypass this relationship trap is to be direct and clear in communicating. If you are having a hard time with life in general or with a specific relationship, address it while it is fresh. Don’t let it rot and fester and cause you to implode while no one notices around you.
When such an implosion takes place, the opportunity for self-pity once again intensifies – as no one seemed to care about the breakdown you had due to your first bout of self-pity. You can burrow deep wounds into your soul by continuing this cycle. Most of the time people around you are simply trying to do their best with what they have. They have hardly considered you, not because they don’t care, but because they have their own challenges. I believe that there are many people who consider themselves introverts simply because they have been offended and are suffering the aftereffects of self-pity. When it comes to others – speak up! Don’t let things boil under the surface.
The repercussions of behavior
In my case, as well as many I have spoken to, how we respond to self-pity can be extremely destructive. Whether it be violence, pornography, alcohol, drugs, eating, bullying, manipulation or judging – looking for something to take that ‘bad taste’ of rejection will make you desperate for things you hate. Many people offer cures to change your behavior, but the problem will still remain – you need to decide what to do when you have the opportunity to feel sorry for yourself. If you choose to forgive, to refuse situations to affect your self-image, to turn to God instead of other things when you are hurting – then you will lose the desire for any kind of addiction.
When it comes to fulfilling your deep expectation, the only relationship that I value above everything else is with Jesus. No matter how many people are around you and don’t notice what is going on inside of you, God intentionally sees you and all of your hangups, problems and pain. If you are looking for attention, you have forgotten that there is a God that intently watches and wonders at your every thought and action – with the full understanding of who you are and what has happened to you.
If you would like to know that kind of intimacy with God, click on the link below to find out more.