Pity… I can’t seem to make a scratch in the armor of bad things that surround us. I can’t stop the pain, hurt, and sorrow we all experience. I’m unable to curb the behaviors too many of us have that lead to the harm of others. Yet, within us all are responses to each thing we experience.
It seems as if the true meaning of life inhabits our reply to all the things life throws at us. If you think about it in earnest, and I mean really scour your soul, you undeniably come to the recognition that life is not something you dominate or regulate. Rather, you and I are left with the acknowledgements and counters to each of these attacks. Our reactions to the actions of life are among the few semblances of management we actually grasp.
When you ponder in those terms what I’m offering you, the next logical query should be, “…And how are our responses to these many stimuli shaped?” That’s a supreme question to consider. Most people reading this inhabit a Judeo-Christian culture. The majority of those are Christian, even if that implies far more than the moniker actually holds.
We need God and the Word to help us interpret what transpires to those around us and ourselves. A biblical basis for our thoughts and actions is more necessary than you may ever realize this side of heaven. But here’s the problem – life has a way of getting in the way of even our best intentions. What happens when we see the bus bearing down on us as we cross the street? We instinctively jump free of being smashed. But what about a virus?
When the bus is barreling down upon you, it’s monumental, contrasting to the skyline, ominous, and probably blasting an air horn all the while. So, you can clearly see it coming and respond in kind. In the case of a virus, the harbinger of destruction is not large enough to see, there is no scent in the air, and it envelopes you long before you’re aware of it’s presence. In fact, the only the way you become wise to a virus inhabiting you, is well after the attack on your body is underway. Only after you’re sicker than the proverbial dog are you mindful this menace is ravaging your body.
I submit to you, pity is the cousin of the most noxious virus imaginable.
At first pity seems like a pretty reasonable thing. Pity accompanies a tragedy, right? Someone you know has experienced something catastrophic and you show them pity. Exactly what is “pity” defined? As a noun, “pity” is defined as the feeling of sorrow or compassion caused by the suffering and misfortune of others. Pity is cause for regret or disappointment. As a verb the “feeling of” sorrow is noted in most places I searched. Self-pity can be very real for us, can it not? Interestingly, the definition of “self-pity” was a little dark. “Excessive, self-absorbed unhappiness over one’s own troubles” was a common description I came across. Notice the subtle but substantial change?
When pity was extrapolated as something we felt for others, it appeared to be within reason. And the moment we felt it for ourselves? The worm turned, and pity became something to be avoided. I conclude pity is dangerous as an agitated viper. Pity should be avoided at every turn. Excessive and continual pity on our part breeds self-pity on the part of those we love. We often don’t realize it, but pity upon others in excess breeds a condition of self-pity within them, that slowly but surely destroys every aspect of their lives.
When we offer pity on people, we convey a sense of affirmation about their own sorrow. I submit to you though, that pity should have limitations and should be used sparingly. When we offer affirmation for the helplessness people feel in times of great loss and sorrow, that same feeling has to be eventually curtailed. For what transpires when pity is continually conferred? Self-pity becomes a way of life and those poor souls clinging desperately to it become addicts.
Self-pity is an addiction. Like any addiction it should be avoided up front and bested upon it’s realization.
When you lose your child people have pity for you. This is compassion conveyed in the most human and natural of ways. This feeling people share with you is very personal and genuine. At some point though, when your loss has matured, the pity they offer should turn to something else. For when pity is continually offered, you risk adopting a framework of self-pity. Self-pity then becomes who you are, how you’re viewed, and worse yet, how you expect to be treated or handled by others.
When you finally turn and become truly guilty of self-pity, the return to a healthy ‘normal’ is made exponentially harder. A crippling loss cannot be truly understood by those who’ve not experienced it. But, adding self-pity to that same loss closes the door on recovery. There is no fitness or hardiness in a future riddled with a claim upon pity coupled with the narcissistic vanity that so often accompanies it.
“Long is the way and hard, that out of Hell leads up to Light…” – John Milton, Paradise Lost (Book 2)
I beg of you. Don’t give into the ease of accepting people’s pity over your losses. Even, and especially when, that loss is more than you can handle. I fear self-pity literally leads to Hell. And making your way free of that magnetism when the reverberations of an immobilizing casualty have yet to cease, can simply be too much.
The times when run from God and wallow in self-pity are the times we must garner the strength and courage to love Him and seek Him. The dichotomy here is so thick with irony we can slice through it with a blade. We run away from Him when we should be running to Him. It’s normal to kick and scream and shake your fist at the Almighty. Each piece of this mosaic has a place, yet our destiny most assuredly lies with Him.
Abandon self-pity if you have it. Offer pity sparingly when you give it. Let go of the idea you must have control and cede it back to Him. Relinquish your grasp on the unhealthy and come back to Him running like a young child into the arms of the loving parent He is. Sin seeks to have us all and stalks us like the black of night. When we’re drunk on self-pity we swing the door wide for the virus to inhabit our minds and bodies. If I didn’t love you so much I would not offer you this. …And you know who you are.