To move from living defeated into the overcoming life, we have to cross the threshold of breaking out of self-pity. Just when someone is about to get free, self-pity pulls the “you don’t love me card.” I often warn people, Just so you know, you may hear thoughts that I do not love you, I do not care or the people who are helping you do not love you. This is not true and you know this is not true now, but it will be challenged. You will hear these thoughts at some point, because the enemy does not want you to break free.”
When people first come for help, they run towards the love and healing atmosphere that is available. But at some point, things get a little tough, because they have to recognize areas that need change. They have to take responsibility. Self-pity will rise up to sabotage the process, almost always putting the blame on someone who they can say “does not love me.” No one was mean or uncaring. In fact, months of investment and care was often given, only to have this sabotaging work of self-pity overthrow the process.
Only You Can Kick It Out
Why is this? Because self-pity cannot be removed by someone else’s prayer. It can only be kick out by you. It’s a mindset that has to be thrown away, but it can be a tough one.
This is why so many counseling services, therapy workers, inner healing practitioners and pastoral care ministers can become drained and exhausted. Self-pity pulls on the sensitivity of those who help, but then it turns on them. But without personal responsibility being taken by the person being helped, healing and restoration is pointless. You end up with codependent merry-go-rounds.
Self-Pity is one of greatest tools the enemy uses in a person to wear everyone out. When self-pity rises up, a person has to choose between staying where they are or moving into empowered thinking. It is at this point where a person has to decide, do I truly want to be well? Unfortunately for many, they cannot imagine living without dysfunction in their life.
A Last Ditch Effort
Self-pity works its hardest when a particular area of bondage is being brought up in someone’s life. It pulls on the disappointments of the past as a last resort to keep them bound. This can happen in many different ways, but here are a few:
A wife begins to address a issue with her husband that is keeping their marriage stagnant or toxic. An argument ensues, because his junk is being brought into the light. The wife brings out how the husband’s actions are causing a great deal of hurt and pain in her life.
Instead of taking responsibility for what he has done in the home, he instead turns the whole discussion around and makes it all about himself. “I work so hard every day! I am paying the bills on this home! You have no idea how hard it is for me to do what I am doing!”
Self-Pity Makes it All About You
The wife was not talking about him. She was trying to share something about her pain and how he could make some adjustments. His angry self-pity reaction sends her back into her pain and keeps the issue from being confronted any further. He is not taking responsibility for how he is affecting her. She often never brings it up again.
My wife and I have sat down with hundreds of women who are connected to men who are treating them harshly or even abusively. Many times a woman will tolerate this kind of treatment from a man because she has no value in herself to stand up for better behavior. Or, it is what she has been around all her life.
Removing Your Power to Decide
The woman is coming to us for help, thinking we will just take her side and bash on the man in her life, be it a husband or boyfriend. Quite often, we have to get to the reason why she tolerates this kind of behavior. Or why she is attracted to these kind of men in the first place needs to be addressed.
It’s easy to blame others, but it removes our ability to choose. This is what self-pity loves to do to us—remove our personal power to decide and take action.
Self-Pity and the Addict
As another example, whenever an addict’s destructive behavior is confronted, self-pity will rise up, manipulating the emotions of people who truly care for them. Self-pity has created a selfish perspective in their minds. They are very unaware of the consequences of their actions. They fail to take in the collateral damage that has occurred on friends and family as a result of their addictions. This is why the term codependency has been used more and more.
Those with self-pity use guilt to make those around them relationally tied to their every up and down. They make it all about themselves, spewing sob stories and providing repeated reasons why they can’t get free. Self-pity keeps the relationship dysfunctional and intact.
Self-Pity and God
I find that God is patient with our groaning and our complaints. I am thankful for this, because it gives us time to see the unhealthy patterns and change.
In the Bible, Job struggled with self-pity when Satan had wreaked havoc on his life and family. The entire book of Job is filled with his emotional turmoil. Understandably, he is shocked at what has happened and completely dumbfounded as to why. It at times leaves him feeling like a victim.
The temptation in this situation is to blame God and make him the enemy. Self-pity often blames God for what has happened to us and then demands that He fix everything. It keeps us from rising up in God’s power to grow and overcome. We often sit and wait for Him to do something, when in fact, God is calling us to heal and take action.
Towards the end of his story, God had to confront Job’s thinking:
“Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said, Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge? Gird up now thy loins like a man; for I will demand of thee, and answer thou me” (Job 38:1-3 KJV).
Stand Up and Listen
God called Job to basically stand up, be a man and listen, so that he could get a better picture of what was going on.
But we can’t hear or see anything from God when we are stuck in self-pity. Sometimes the best way to knock someone out of pity is to have them stand up tall, change their posture and listen to words of empowerment.
Job’s extreme situation can serve to us as an example of how self-pity can keep us locked out of getting revelation from God about our circumstances. On our worst day, we can all say, at least my struggle is not like Job’s. It doesn’t solve everything, but it reconfigures our perspective so we can move further into gratitude.
In fact, getting grateful is the first antidote to breaking self-pity and victim thinking patterns. A grateful heart sets the stage for a much brighter hope in our hearts and a more empowered outlook.
But we must make the decision and take action. No one can do this for us.
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