September 4, 2012

How I combat self-pity

The act of comparing is a daily battle I fight hard against.

I am very ashamed to admit it, but I often catch myself looking at other families, observing their blessings and coveting them.

Yes, I know the snapshots of life I observe do not completely reflect reality, but when I see a family that does not have to worry about therapies, psychological tests and mounting medical bills, I feel a threatening attack of jealousy.

The attack comes on very swiftly and soon I am battling a tidal wave of emotions:

     Fear. Sadness. Anger. Bitterness.

And all those emotions, if left unchecked, meld into one very dangerous state of being... self-pity.

At first I used to allow myself to wallow in the dreadful party-for-one, but that only accomplished being miserable - or, even worse, would lead me down a dark road to depression.

So now when I feel the icy fingers of jealousy begin to tighten their grip on me, I immediately put on the armor (Eph. 6:10-18) and wage battle.

I battle with my pen. Writing as fast as my fingers will allow, I name each blessing - big or small - that comes to mind.

{Our home, beds to sleep in, clean water, food, supportive friends & family, the body of Christ, my husband, my two beautiful boys, coffee :), two cars that are running smoothly...}

I am usually fighting back tears as I near the end of the page; tears of gratitude and of shame. How can I be so short-sighted? I have so many reasons to be thankful!

While there are many who are struggling to feed their family, drink clean water and obtain basic medicines, I am complaining about the flooring in our house and not being able to have certain comforts. Yes, my family has some real needs - important needs - but I am grateful that we never go hungry, have a wonderful home and have the loving support of countless people.

I have learned that filling my heart with gratitude pushes out negative emotions that lead to self-pity.

     It is really quite simple - but it works.

Instead of sinking in despair, my heart dances with joy and thankfulness and dwells in peace.

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things."

Philippians 4:6-8 

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

"Celebrate God all day, every day. I mean, revel in Him! Make it as clear as you can to all you meet that you're on their side, working with them and not against them. Help them see that the Master is about to arrive. He could show up any minute!

Don't fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God's wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It's wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.

Summing it all up, friends, I'd say you'll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies."

Philippians 4:4-8 (The Message)



  1. Thank you Karen for being so real and so raw - and sharing your battle secrets. I just posted in on my FB wall for others to be blessed by your words!!

  2. Thank you for this amazing post and thanks to Renee for posting a link on Tiwtter. God certainly has amazing timing!! We too have two boys, one with special needs. It's amazing to me how just a few short years ago quite a bit of your post would have sounded like Greek to me. Now however, it sounds all too familiar.

    I posted on our blog this week as well, but it was the "I want to throw in the towel, have my own pity party and then give up" post. It's no coincidence that yours contains what I need to hear to get back on track.

    Thank you again!!! While the details may be different, the journey you guys are on feels very familiar!!

    May God continue to bless you!!
    Ellen Wingate

  3. Thank you for posting this to FB and thank you Karen for sharing your heart. I am a widow raising 2 children and struggle often with comparing our family to the other "complete" families I see at church. Since my husband passed away, my pen (or the computer keyboard)has become my battle weapon as I write out my frustrations and hurts and turn observances of life into lessons and devotionals. I have recently started a Gratitude Journal in order to combat the negativity and stress of being a single parent/widow. Tonight I am thankful that I came across this posting which helped remind myself of the many blessings we have despite the loss of husband/dad.

  4. I am both humbled and inspired by your words.

    Thank you, my sweet friend.

  5. How well I know the allure of the pity-party. "Oooh, that's a pretty pit. I think I'll just go down in there for awhile." And like you, Karen, I used to wallow. And I mean, WALLOW. I'm sure nothing you do compares to what I was doing. But God brought me to a point where I hated those piteous feelings, and I realized that compared to so many, I really don't have it so bad after all.

    There are still days, moments, times, when the pit holds its allure, but instead of surrendering to the downward pull, my prayer goes something like this, "Jesus, I feel sad right now. This is why [or I don't know why]. Will you just hold me for awhile until things get better? And hold my sadness too?"

    Somehow, acknowledging the sadness (and I've been on anti-depressants for years) reduces the pull of the pity pit.

    Bless you for acknowledging your blessings, but I hope you also give yourself the freedom and grace to acknowledge legitimate sadness.

    Karen, you are always in my prayers. Always.


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