Self-pity is a curious beast.
Almost all of us would say self-pity is wrong, yet almost all of us indulge in it at times, even if only in small ways. (I don’t need this right now. I don’t have time for this.)
What is the lure of self-pity? What does it do for us? Why is feeling sorry for myself appealing? What benefits does it offer?
I’ve puzzled over this. I initially couldn’t figure out any benefits self-pity offered. But if self-pity doesn’t offer any benefits, why indulge in it? What does self-pity promise that makes it appealing?
Here’s the list I’ve come up with:
1. Self-pity provides false compassion.
Self-pity deceives me into believing I’ve received compassion because I’ve expressed sympathetic words to myself. But because my source for the sympathetic words is not the God of all compassion, it’s simply counterfeit. I want it to do what genuine compassion does, but I’ve gone to a broken cistern.
2. It provides temporary balm for my soul by allowing me to believe that whatever is happening to me is not something I deserve.
“I shouldn’t have to go through this.” “Why me?” “I haven’t done anything bad enough to deserve this.” It does make me feel better temporarily to believe that I am vindicated and that my suffering is undeserved or even unjust. However, the balm is only temporary because, like Job, I’m left with no hope.
3. Self-pity offers me a sense of righteousness and blamelessness in my suffering.
But self-pity substitutes self-righteousness for true righteousness. Thus it removes the need for a Savior. A Savior who shows me how to suffer and who is with me in my suffering.
4. It allows me to be honest about my hardship.
The problem is not that I am honest about the pain. Christianity is not stoic. The problem is that I am dishonest about the solution. Feeling sympathy for myself misses all the riches of becoming like Christ in the midst of suffering.
5. Self-pity allows me to fantasize about being sovereign – in control.
When I wish I was dead – that’s a decision only a sovereign, a ruler gets to make.
6. It gives me cheap comfort.
I don’t have to do any work to receive it. I don’t have to run to God to know Him better. It requires no work on my part. I don’t have to wrestle with why suffering comes to the righteous.