At a certain point in my life, everything that could go wrong, went wrong. Friends failed me. Family stresses came. Health problems appeared. Money ran out. All my attempts to improve circumstances came to nothing. The odds stacked up against me, pushing me toward my favorite, old coping technique of self-pity.
Problem was, it was a deeply flawed technique. Self-pity turns inward in an attempt to coddle emotions, often partnering with blaming, resentment, and fatalism. “Nobody likes me, everybody hates me, I’m gonna eat some worms” type stuff.
Self-compassion has been identified as a means of improving mood and well-being. How does it compare to self-pity? The differences is this: Self-compassion leaves room for me to also feel compassion for others. I’m not the center of the universe, I’m one of many suffering people who needs a break, and in self-compassion I choose to be a channel of God’s mercy, giving myself, and others, that break. But self-pity focuses entirely on my suffering to the exclusion of others’ suffering.
The universal reality of human suffering provides a pathway out of self-pity. When we notice the people around us in similar circumstances to our own, we cry out to God to pity us all. And He does. Oh, how He does. As we sense the compassion of God toward us, we learn to trust Him who gives us strength for the day and peace for our pain.
Scan your mind for ways you haven’t reflected God’s mercy to yourself. Have you beat up on yourself, taken blame that didn’t belong to you, or worked beyond your strength? Have you stuffed painful emotions, trying to be tough? Just now, choose to give yourself a break. It’s probably not God who’s being hard on you; it’s probably you. So let go of your need to be your own worst taskmaster. Let God’s compassion flow down into your soul till it overflows to the others around you.
Dear Compassionate One, make us clear channels of your kindness. Help us to stop being our own worst enemy. Let us not lapse into self-pity, blame, and resentment, but let us learn how to accept compassion. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
“You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You because he trusts in You. Trust in the Lord forever, for in Yah, the Lord, is everlasting strength.” Isaiah 26:3-4