Friday, April 11, 2014

Friday Night With Friends: The Perils of Self-Pity by Annette Clayton

INTRO:  Annette graciously agreed to give a brief devotional at the Emmaus meeting last night.  She had her transcript typed and ready when she arrived, and I asked for permission to use it as our Friday Night With Friends blog.  You might find, like I did, that there is a little "ouch" here.  Annette wanted me to tell you that she had not anticipated it being used as a blog, and that she had spent some time looking on the internet for help with her devotional.  She said she copied some sections, but wasn't sure what came from where and she has tried to make this her own.   If we have inadvertently violated a copyright, please let us know, and we will be sure to give credit where credit is due.  

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Have you ever felt sorry for yourself?  I'm not talking about being just a little whiney here. Have you ever gotten down in the dumps - way down in the dumps - and begun to moan and groan, saying "Woe is me!"?  This is difficult to say without sounding harsh and judgmental, but here goes.  Self pity is an extreme form of self-centeredness, and usually a result of a very selfish perspective of the world.  People who regularly indulge in self-pity are miserable, and they tend to make others quite unhappy, too.

Unfortunately, the self-pity mindset has a way of taking a death grip on us.  If we allow ourselves to do so, most of us can find plenty of reasons to feel sorry for ourselves.  When we allow our minds to run unrestrained, we will almost always think negative thoughts. It's our nature.  Without self-discipline in the area of our thought life, most us of have a natural tendency to become sullen.  What is so hard to realize is that self-pity is a bottomless well. Once we allow ourselves to begin plunging into that well of self-pity, we can easily find ourselves in a free fall to a deep, dark rut from which there seems to be no escape.  

It doesn't take much unrestrained self-pity to turn the best of us into bitter, pessimistic, angry, hateful, unhappy people.  It is important, of course, to separate self-pity from depression, grief, and sadness.  Those are totally different issues, and not the topic here at all.  The person who engages in self-pity is often looking for sympathy from others.  They become dependent on  the support and encouragement the receive to make them feel better. Unfortunately, such a dependence is very similar to a chemical dependence.  The high soon wears off, and they need another fix.  

Fortunately, the number of people who constantly pity themselves is rather low.  It seems, though, that we all know one or two people who have a constant pity-party.  Their fixation on what's going wrong in their lives can be like sandpaper on our brains.  Pointing out the good in their life is not well received.  Their dramatic interpretation of the events of their life as nothing short of exceptional tragedy is not only annoying, it is harmful to our relationship with them.  

There is a person in my life who's never happy or content with her life.  Maybe you know someone like this.  Maybe you are someone like this, at least sometimes. Things are always bad and getting worse, and her greatest desire is for sympathy.  People like her are convinced that no one else could ever have as many problems as they have.  I do feel bad for her and for people like her.  They make themselves feel worse, and are never happy about the positive things in their lives.  After a while, there is a diminishing return on the sympathy they receive, and they continue to see the world as a dark and difficult place.  

Jonah was a man like this.  In case you've forgotten, after a miraculous and divine rescue from the belly of the big fish, Jonah finally obeyed God, preached repentance to the people of Nineveh, and watched as revival fell upon the city.  Afterward, he was sitting in the sun and God made a gourd vine grow up to cast a shadow over Jonah and give him shade.  He was really glad about the vine.  In fact, he was more concerned about the vine than he was about the entire city of Nineveh.  When the vine died, he lost his shade, got hot again, and started whining. He was so desperate from losing his shady vine that he wanted to die.  Jonah was like a yo-yo.  One minute he was up and the next he was down, living based on his emotions all the time.  

We are not much better, are we?  We cry out to the Lord in our distress, begging for His intervention and promising all kinds of devotion and obedience.  Once God, in His mercy, moves in our situation, we rejoice briefly and, before you know it, we are whining again over the latest pressure that has arrived.  Immediately, we protest to God, ask where He is, wonder if He still loves us.  What pathetic attitudes we sometimes adopt!  One day, we will meet our Lord and all will be uncovered.  How will we feel about our circumstances when we see Jesus face to face?  

When we are filled with self pity, we put SELF at the center of our universe, rather than God.  The fruit of that choice is lack of faith, discouragement, victim syndrome, anger, resentment, and wasted time and opportunities.  What are we to do if we are caught in the web of self-pity?  The first step is to recognize that self-pity is SIN.  Reject it in your life and seek God's help and grace to remove it completely.  

2 Corinthians 2:14 says, "Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ and maketh manifest the savor (or fragranc) of His knowledge by us in every place." Self-pity is a foul aroma that stinks up your life, and leaves no room for the aroma of Christ.  Wouldn't you prefer to spread the sweet aroma of Christ to everyone you meet? That's a fragrance worth wearing every day!  

You can stop allowing self-pity to rob you of the joy of your Savior.  The way to escape is simple, and is found is John 16:33.  "These things I have spoken unto you that in Me ye might have peace.  In the world, you shall have tribulation, but be of good cheer.  I have overcome the world."