The Sin of Self-Pity
God gives each person a different trial to go through, and part of overcoming that trial and seeing victory is the ability to overcome complaining and self-pity.
I remember one time seeing the social media page of a young woman who was particularly sad at her inability to find a spouse. She grieved over her lack of love, understandably so, but it wasn't just once in a blue moon, it was often. When she finally received the desire of her heart, a spouse, everyone was joyous for her. But alas, once she was married she started to grieve over her inability to have children. That became her all-consuming thought, infiltrated the majority of her posts, and I don't remember ever seeing anything really but complaints about not being a mother.
I wondered if she realized how odious she had become. Did she even have any friends? All she talked about was what she didn't have. It was always about her. Her grief. Her loss. And yet, at the same time, I thought of all of those people out their suffering silently. Those who harbor deep depression. I thought of my great aunt, suffering a terrible weight, carrying a heavy load knowing her husband had been diagnosed with a fatal disease and only had a year left to live, and yet when I saw her face after this diagnosis, it was full of kindness and gentleness. You would have never known what pain she was going through. Or a friend's mother suffering with cancer. She bears it so well, only thinking of others. She never complains. Yes, she updates everyone on her progress, but she doesn't keep the focus on herself, when she has every right to. For those who bear their burdens alone, who will be there for them when we are so consumed with our pain? What will our God say to us when we could have prevented the suicides of people around us, but failed to do so because we constantly complained and focused on that miserable pain in the back we'd had for a decade? What good are we as Christians when we focus on self-pity?
In comparison to death and trauma, some of the trials we face are miniscule. They are not dismissed by God as trivial, but God doesn't want us to dwell on a trial to the point where it consumes us. That is not God-glorifying. It is called complaining, whining, and self-pity, all ungodly character traits. And unfortunately it seems that this is all too common amongst Christians with the easy access of social media. It is much easier to put our heart on our sleeve instead of standing strong in Christ, bearing our burdens gracefully, incorporating a prayer group for the times when we feel like we will fail.
Consider this: Is the trial that I am facing, big or small, a hindrance to my testimony? Here are some ways to test this:
1.) Does almost everything I post, or every message I write discuss the trial I'm facing? If so, you have become focused on self instead of God. It's time to redirect your focus.
2.) Have friends dropped off the face of the earth ever since I began experiencing this trial? It could be because they don't want to bear your burden, but most likely it is because the relationship centers on you as the focus.
3.) Do I post just to receive sympathetic comments? Do I secretly enjoy the attention? If so, this is a red flag that the focus is off God and on you.
4.) What am I doing with my trial to impact others for Christ? Can you think of something beneficial to do with your trial? There's always a way to reach out to others with the same trial to encourage them.
Take a step back to reflect on self-pity versus suffering. As Christians, we will endure suffering. That is certain. God wants us though to take up our cross. Instead of complaining, seek God out continuously and help lighten the burdens of others. Use your trial for God's glory and as an example to others.
Published in Boundless, Devozine, The Lookout, The Life, The Secret Place, and many more, Ashlea is a freelance writer on the side and English professor who spends her free time posting here on her blog.