As she deepens her relationship with her Lord, Saviour and friend Jesus, Ambrie shares thoughts and experiences on day to day life issues.
Self Pity is Senseless -
... and has no long term benefits. It can take many forms but can be generally described as an excessively self-indulgent attitude towards our own problems and hardships. It can involve constantly feeling sorry for ourselves - "poor me", taking ourselves way too seriously, believing no one has life as difficult as we do and no one could possibly understand how hard done by we are. It can include attention, sympathy and condolence seeking and victim mentality.
Sometimes we don't realise when it's happening, but often even when we do know we're repeatedly indulging in Self Pity (SP), and do acknowledge that that this state of mind is, at best, unhelpful, it's still hard to stop ourselves. The easy thing to do is to stay stuck in a cycle of constant self-indulgence and defeatism about relationships, finances, health or indeed any issue - but with God's help, and conscious effort, we can turn our minds away from this bad habit and achieve so much more peace and joy in life.
We All Feel Sorry for Ourselves on Occasion, but -
... preoccupation with unhelpful Self Pity thinking can build to stagnation, attention seeking, isolation, or helplessness. It can distract us from seeing solutions and stop us from doing God's will.
Recurring Problems Encourage Self Pity
Sometimes, certain difficulties we believe we've already overcome have a nasty habit of sneaking back up on us from nowhere, savagely stealing our peace of mind when we least expect it. Snakes alive - as if our newly emerging challenges weren't enough to contend with.
At such times it’s all too easy for us to get upset, discouraged, disappointed, fearful, depressed and/or exasperated. At such times we have a tendency to wallow in self-pity, and feel to just give up!
And no doubt that’s EXACTLY how the enemy, the devil, wants you and me to feel about both recurring difficulties - and new ones.
Breeding Bad Habits
Getting stuck in a sea of SP and depression can evolve into unhealthy self-medicating behaviours e.g. overwork, losing ourselves in technology, alcohol, smoking illicit substances. These behaviours serve to distance us from God.
But We Can Take Back Control -
... when destructive thoughts pop uninvited into our head. I have made great strides in overcoming Self Pity by taking unhelpful thoughts captive and counteracting them as per the examples below, rather than passively accepting these thoughts and letting them freely eat away at my peace of mind and joy in life.
We must know, remember and keep in mind that, as opposed to promising us that we would not experience strife once we’ve declared and recognised Jesus as our Lord and Saviour, His promise is to help us triumph over strife (John 16.33).
And thankfully just as we can seek Jesus to overcome fresh problems that we have never encountered before, we can seek Him for peace of mind to overcome repetitive difficulties, each and every time they rear their ugly heads.
The Three C's - Essential Steps to Overcome Self Pity
Being thankful and praising God for what's going right in our lives may get neglected by people who obsess in SP, so whilst doing the three C's below, please start and end your day by appreciating what's good in your life - the little things as well as the big things.
One - Consciousness
The first step is to make it our mission to carefully and consistently monitor our attitudes, actions and thought life, consciously developing the habit of noticing even the smallest unhelpful, negative thoughts and/or lies from the enemy - as and when they pop up in our head.
We need to be self aware of the SP thoughts that fuel actions such as
- constantly seeking sympathy from others,
- moaning about our plight and how awful things are, and
- delighting in trying to "wow" people with our misfortunes.
Knowing that self-pity is unacceptable, unnecessary and futile, and knowing that God has great plans for me as per Jeremiah 29.11, I am acknowledging the need for me to monitor my thinking.
Further, regardless of whether or not we believe we have good reason to feel sorry for ourselves, when we persist in entertaining destructive thoughts which can build up to SP, we're effectively dismissing John 16.33, and many other scriptures.
Two - Contradiction
For the next step, bearing in mind 2 Corinthians 10.5 - the scripture concerning taking every thought captive and making it obedient to God - whenever we catch ourselves indulging in and entertaining negative, unhelpful SP thoughts we have to do "something" about them straight away, rather than passively allowing them to take root, overwhelm and persistently distract us from doing God's will.
That "something" is to immediately arrest, challenge, circumvent or contradict SP with God's word and God's truth.
It's great if you can add Bible verses about overcoming when you contradict unhelpful thought - but don't worry if you cannot think of a relevant scripture word for word. Don't fret if you cannot come up with a close paraphrase of scripture there and then off the top of your head. Instead you could simply supplement unhelpful pitiful thoughts by stating the fact that God loves you, is always there for you and that this too will pass.
Here are some examples of what Self Pity thought contradictions could look like:
- the thought "No, no – this is just too much for me" can be supplemented right away with "but God won't burden me with more than I can bear and I can trust that He knows what I can bear".
- and the notion "Oh God this just isn’t fair" can be promptly supplemented with "but I know God has a good plan for my life and He will strengthen me every step of the way".
- "Poor me! My ... ... is the worse anyone has ever experienced" can be swiftly supplemented with "but actually I don't know this for a fact, and even if it were proven to be true, this thought simply isn't helpful to me and so I'm rejecting it".
- the thought "Not this again!" can be instantly supplemented with "but God has helped me overcome ... ... in the past and he'll do it again, and again, and again.
- I'm always the one who ... ..." can be quickly supplemented with "but I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me".
- "I'm never going to recover from ... ... can at once be supplemented with "but God is with me and all is well".
And don't worry if you don't catch each and every occurrence of SP - just commit to catching and straightaway contradicting as many instances of it as is humanly possible, resisting the enemy's will to defeat and emotionally strangle you.
Three - Consistency
Since habitual SP is a hard habit to break, the third step here concerns daily reminders to help us become focussed and consistent in tackling unhelpful thoughts that can potentially lead to emotional paralysis.
For example, you might set up your daily morning phone alarm with a relevant scripture reference as its label - perhaps 2 Corinthians 10.5 as mentioned above (and shown in the image below). When your alarm goes off, you could recite or paraphrase the scripture once or twice as an aide-memoire to consciously counteract unhelpful, self-pitying thinking. Indeed, for seasons when you feel particularly challenged, you can set more than one alarm/reminder each day.
Another example of a reminder is to simply print out a relevant scripture and place it where you’ll notice it throughout the day.
Further, I like to daily pray, declare and thank God that He is consistently guiding and helping me to consciously contradict SP thinking. And bearing in mind that procrastinating on SP thoughts can take up an awful lot of time, I encourage you to do the same. Freedom from SP is increasingly allowing me to press forward productively day to day.
Remembering to Constantly Confront SP
The Bottom Line is -
... we can take back control of our thinking when destructive SP thoughts pop into our head uninvited. We can take such thoughts captive and counteract them as per the examples above, rather than passively accepting these thoughts.
The enemy wants obsessively feeling sorry for ourselves to spill over into our conversations and deeds, dragging us, and those around us, down. So, in advance, let's pray and thank God for helping us desist from drowning in useless Self Pity.