We all love parties—those festive occasions when we celebrate something special. But have you ever planned a party that turned out to be a bust? Nobody showed up or the food was terrible or a fight broke out? Well, if you’ve ever had a pity party, then you know how miserable they can be. Pity parties are pitiful!
Read this passage from Hebrews 12:1:
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”
It dawned on me that one of the most common things that hinders and entangles believers and keeps us from running our race is self-pity. I believe the enemy has this flaming arrow honed to perfection, and many of us are very vulnerable to self-pity.
For example, often single people throw pity parties because they’re not married. Or how about those times we’ve felt sorry for ourselves because we received unfair treatment on our jobs. And then there’s this famous reason for a pity party: We were accused of something of which we were not guilty.
And I think we’ve had a few pity parties because we didn’t get the credit we think we deserved. Or would you admit with me that you’ve thrown a pity party or two because someone said something that hurt your feelings? It really doesn’t take much for us to get a pity party going! Any flimsy excuse will do!
Think of how the enemy uses self-pity in our lives. When we are feeling sorry for ourselves, what are some of the usual outcomes?
- Almost always, pity parties cause us to waste time. Now, just think about it: When you’re feeling sorry for yourself, you usually waste a lot of time thinking about how you’ve been wronged, how you don’t deserve what’s happened to you, how bad things are. Pity parties take a lot of time away from other important activities.
I remember years ago getting home one evening and I was sorely tempted to throw a pity party because my boss had hurt my feelings that day. I had planned to get some work done that night, but instead I started to feel sorry for myself. I sat down in my favorite chair and decided, “I’m not going to do anything tonight; I have a right to just do nothing. After all, I really have it hard at work.”
Then it dawned on me what was happening: The enemy was trying to keep me from doing profitable things by tempting me to throw a pity party. So, I said—out loud—to the enemy, “Not tonight; no sir, I’m not throwing a pity party tonight.” And I just refused to wallow in that self-pity. Believe me, that was a change in the way I had often dealt with hurt feelings. But I just wasn’t going to let the enemy waste my time through a pity party. And it was a major change point in my life, because it was the first time I realized that I can refuse to throw a pity party if I choose to. And I remember thinking that I just didn’t want to be miserable.
2. Not only do pity parties waste our time, they also waste our energy. Self-pity just drains you. It is, of course, a very emotional reaction, and you spend a lot of emotional energy when you are feeling sorry for yourself. That means you don’t have energy for other things that are important. So, again, pity parties keep you from doing what you should do because you don’t have any energy left after throwing that pity party.
3. Have you noticed this? When you throw a pity party, your imagination runs wild. You start thinking about what someone has done or what has happened, and it grows in importance. In your mind it becomes a lot worse than it really is. You lose your perspective. That, of course, causes you to over-react to it.
4. And in that over-reaction, what often happens is that relationships are damaged. When feelings are hurt and we’re feeling sorry for ourselves, we often say and do things that hurt others. And because we’ve lost our perspective, we say and do things we really will regret later on. But once those things are said and done, it may be too late to undo the damage. Self-pity can cause irreparable damage to relationships.
5. When we have pity parties, one thing is certain: we are self-centered. Self-pity is by definition a total concentration on ourselves and how we’ve been hurt. Self-focused people are always miserable, and besides, being self-focused is a sin.
6. Another inevitable result of self-pity is that it affects our performance. We slow down, we lose motivation, we do our work halfheartedly—or what often happens is we quit! In our jobs we may not have the luxury of quitting, so instead our work habits deteriorate. But I wonder how many church and volunteer positions have been abandoned because someone’s feelings were hurt.
These are just some of the common results of pity parties. Do you see why I say that pity parties are pitiful? And why I believe that the enemy uses them very often to entangle us and hinder us and to keep us from running our race effectively?
Let’s try to put self-pity in perspective—how it looks to the Lord. Can you imagine standing before the Lord to give an account of the stewardship of your time and gifts, and you’re trying to explain to him:
“Lord, I realize I could have gotten involved in that ministry and helped out there, but you see, my feelings were hurt. Beth said something to me that was very unkind, and how can I work with Beth when she has hurt my feelings? I’m sure you understand, Lord.”
“Lord, I would have done that for you, but you see, I was left out. Nobody invited me to be a part of it, so I just figured they didn’t want me.”
“Lord, I know you didn’t expect me to keep on doing that job after the way they treated me. Somebody else came on the scene and they did what I used to do. So, I wasn’t going to hang around there and just let them walk all over me like that.”
“Lord, nobody ever said thank you or gave me any credit for what I did. So, you understand, there was no way I could keep on doing that.”
None of us would have the nerve to say any of that to the Lord, would we? The minute you try to form the words, you see how foolish they are. That same passage in Hebrews 12 tells us that Jesus endured the cross, scorning its shame and endured terrible opposition from evil men. Nothing that’s happened to us can come close to the wrong that he endured. How can we feel sorry for ourselves if we’re going to be like Jesus? He endured the wrong done to him and never allowed it to detract him or sidetrack him.
Pity parties are pitiful because they cause us to sin, they make us take our eyes off Jesus and put them on ourselves, they take us out of the race that God has set before us, they hinder and entangle us pitifully.
Pity parties often begin with words like:
- “I deserve”
- “I have a right”
- “I don’t have to take this”
- “I didn’t get the credit I deserved”
When you hear yourself saying those words or thinking those thoughts, stop dead in your tracks, because you’re headed for a pity party.
Why do we have pity parties? Let me suggest some reasons that cause us to throw these miserable affairs that do us so much harm:
- Pity parties happen more often when you have too much time on your hands. Busy, disciplined people don’t have time for pity parties. Notice that I said busy and disciplined. You may have lots to do but still throw a pity party if you’re not disciplined to get busy and do what you have to do instead of feeling sorry for yourself.
- When I am self-focused rather than others-focused and God-focused, then I’m much more likely to throw a pity party. The Bible tells us in Philippians 2:3-4, to consider others more important than ourselves. We are told to have servant attitudes—to focus on serving other people. When you have that mind in you, that Jesus attitude in you, you won’t have too many pity parties. But as soon as you spend time thinking about poor you, that self-pity starts to take over.
- When you are more concerned with fair treatment and getting credit than getting the job done, pity parties are common. If you’re focused on staying in the race and seeing things happen, rather than how you’re treated or recognized, you just forget to have the pity party.
Pray and ask God to make you sick of your pity parties. Ask him to make you aware of every pity party you try to have, so that you can stop throwing them. You are going to discover how much nicer your life will be when you don’t let self-pity in the door of our minds. Our pity parties do us more harm than they do anyone else.