“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” (Hebrews 12:1)
I truly believe that one of the main sins that hinders and entangles us is self-pity. And I think it’s one we don’t easily recognize, because when we are wallowing in self-pity, we feel justified. After all, something has happened to cause us to feel that we have a right to feel sorry for ourselves, so it’s difficult for us to see self-pity as a tool that Satan uses to hinder us.
The other thing I’ve noticed about self-pity is that although we are miserable at these pity parties, they hold some kind of weird fascination for us. We seem to love the misery and are reluctant to walk out of our pity parties, because we feel justified in our self-pity, and since usually nobody else is feeling sorry for us, we have to do it ourselves!
Pity parties are pitiful, and I want to do everything I can to convince you that every time you throw one of these affairs, you damage your witness for Jesus, and you do yourself a great disservice.
Here are some of the usual outcomes of pity parties:
- Almost always, pity parties cause us to waste time.
- Not only do pity parties waste our time, they also waste our energy. Self-pity just drains you.
- Have you noticed this? When you throw a pity party, your imagination runs wild.
- And in that over-reaction, what often happens is that relationships are damaged.
- When we have pity parties, one thing is certain: we are self-centered.
- Another inevitable result of self-pity is that it affects our performance.
I want to focus on the cure for self-pity. Here are six ways to avoid pity parties:
- Change your attitude about pity parties.
I hope that you will get really fed up with pity parties, as you see how much damage they are doing to you and to everyone around you. Just get good and mad at the enemy who has used this weapon against you time and again. Ask God to give you holy anger about pity parties, to see them as he sees them, and to get sick and tired of feeling sorry for yourself.
I truly believe we must have a change of attitude toward self-pity and keep telling ourselves: “Pity parties are pitiful.” A smart person is not going to allow herself or himself to be swallowed up in self-pity. A godly person is not going to keep falling for this trick of the enemy.
2. Refuse to think about the bad reports; think only about the good reports!
In Philippians 4:8 we are told what to think about, which also means we are told what not to think about. And that verse tells us to think about things that are of a good report. Wouldn’t that also say don’t think about the bad reports?
Usually when we are having a pity party, we are thinking about some bad report. It has helped me greatly to tell myself over and over again, when I’m tempted to feel sorry for myself, “Mary, stop thinking about the bad reports. Think about some good reports.” I often start reading the emails from our listeners, which helps me focus on the good things God is doing though our ministry. Those good reports will break up a pity party fast.
3. Resist the enemy who is trying to entangle you and hinder you by making you feel sorry for yourself.
Just say to the enemy, out loud if possible, “Sorry, but I’m not having a pity party today so take off the party hat and go find someone else. I refuse to feel sorry for myself. I don’t have time and I’m not wasting that energy.” The Bible tells us that if we resist the enemy, he will flee from us.
4. Think about Jesus and all that he endured.
Hebrews 12:2 says “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus…” By a set of your will, stop thinking about “poor me” and think about Jesus—fix your eyes on him. Think about how he suffered such awful indignity and pain for you, and you will be embarrassed to feel sorry for yourself when you compare your situation to his.
5. Get busy doing something constructive.
Don’t just sit there; do something! This is one time you need to get involved in constructive activity that will take your mind off of your hurt feelings and shut down that pity party. Not long ago I was again tempted to indulge in thoughts of self-pity, and I decided to replace those wrong thoughts with God’s Word. I listened to four chapters of Matthew, being read online, and just saturated my mind with the Gospel. It pulls you out of self-pity immediately, I promise. But you have to do it!
6. If you have something against someone else, either go to them and get it out in the open, or put it behind you.
There are times when you need to go to the person who has hurt your feelings and get some issues out in the open. Here’s a good suggestion: Write down on a piece of paper or on your computer exactly what is bothering you, how your feelings have been hurt, and what you would like to say to that person. Then put that in a safe place for two days, and during those two days pray about what God would have you do.
After two days re-read it and ask for God’s wisdom. If you still believe you should go to that person and settle this thing, then decide how to tell the truth in love, make sure you’re not acting in anger nor simply self-interest, and then go to them at an appropriate time.
If you’re not willing to do that, or it no longer seems that important, tear up or delete what you wrote and say to the Lord, “I’m putting this behind me; it is in the past and you will take care of it from this point on.”
The worst thing in the world is to keep brooding about it. Either do something or put it behind you.
Now, let me switch hats here and talk about what we should do when we have hurt someone else’s feelings. Life being what it is, there’s no way to interact with others and get things done without sometime, somewhere discovering that you’ve hurt someone else’s feelings. Obviously a believer should never do that intentionally but it will happen unintentionally from time to time.
When you become aware that you’ve hurt someone else, here are some things I would urge you to do:
- If you owe an apology or need to make amends in any way, do it. Don’t put it off. Pick up that phone, write that email, use whatever method you think is most effective, but get it off your chest and your heart by apologizing. The longer you delay, the harder that will be to do.
- Examine yourself and see if you have something to learn from this experience. It bothers me a great deal when I realize someone’s feelings are hurt because of me, and the tendency is to wallow in guilt. But that isn’t profitable. After you’ve done what you can do to make amends and restore that relarionship, then ask God to teach you something valuable from it. Come away from it understanding yourself better and how it happened, so that you won’t be as likely to do the same thing again.
- Don’t allow your fight against self-pity to cause you to be unkind to those whose feelings are hurt. Perhaps you think they are totally unjustified in their hurt feelings; perhaps they are immature and too sensitive and you believe it’s more their problem than yours. That may be true, but remember Romans 15:1 which says “We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves.”
- Throw off the false guilt that the enemy would lay on you, once you’ve done all that God would have you to do in the situation. If the enemy can’t hinder you and entangle you by getting someone else to hurt your feelings, he’ll try to sidetrack you by having you wallow in guilt. Once you’ve done everything you can to make restitution and you’ve asked God to teach you what you need to learn, then put it out of your mind and go forward. You can waste as much time and energy in false guilt as you can in pity parties!
Well, pity parties are truly pitiful, don’t you agree? I have made a personal commitment that I will avoid these temptations to self-pity like a plague. I truly hope I’ve been able to open your eyes to the pitfalls of pity parties, and you’ll ask God to deliver you from pity parties.
Remember, someday we’re going to stand before God to give an answer of how we used our time, talents and resources here on earth, and I don’t want to have to explain how I allowed hurt feelings and pity parties to keep me from doing the Father’s will. When we think of how Jesus was hurt for us, how could we ever truly feel sorry for ourselves. We have Jesus, we have hope, we have eternity in heaven, we have peace and life—we are not to be pitied but rather we are to be thankful.