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What does the Bible say about self-pity?

Have you ever been to a pity party? Have you ever thrown one for yourself? They're not very fun! All of us are prone to thinking the world revolves around us from time to time, and when we realize it doesn't, we can get stuck in self-pity. Have you caught yourself saying, “My life is terrible!” or "Nobody cares about me!" and ended up crying in your bed for the rest of the day? Yep. That's self-pity.

Self-pity happens when we feel we have been unfairly treated. We cry, mope, and whine in hopes that somebody might feel sorry for us and make us feel better—like that's the job of our loved ones. Self-centeredness is the root of self-pity, and it's something that Christians do not need to indulge in. When we wallow in self-pity, we're actually complaining about the life our gracious God has given us.

When We Only Focus on Ourselves

Anytime we hear the word “self,” we need to be watching for red flags. While it’s OK to take care of our needs when we need to rest, recharge, or reconnect with God, we cannot allow ourselves to become SO focused on "self" that we disregard God and/or the needs of others. We can take time for self-care—even Jesus did this (see Luke 5)—but tending to ourselves shouldn't be our main goal in life.

The Bible speaks of self-examination (e.g. testing our actions and motives) as a practice of strengthening our faith (2 Corinthians 13:5). We may self-examine before we partake in the Lord’s Supper to make sure that we're drinking the cup and eating the bread in a worthy manner (2 Corinthians 11:28). When we focus on ourselves in this way, we're reinforcing our faith and relationship with God by bringing our lives in alignment with His will.

Focusing on our woes and petty injustices, however, is self-pity. The apostle Paul describes this kind of self-centeredness as "self-seeking" (1 Corinthians 13:5). Self-pity is rooted in selfish desires and leads to making an idol of our own needs—a kind of self-worship. Anything or anyone we place above the true God in our lives becomes the god of our lives.

Those who are new creations in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17) may now CHOOSE to ignore the sinful flesh that feeds self-pity. We can say, “Not today, Satan!” Once we've placed faith in Jesus, we've crucified the sinful nature with its desires (Romans 6:6). We no longer live for the sinful self; we live for God (Galatians 2:20). We do not have to obey sin’s desire of self-pity, because we are children of God—not children of the world.

How do I know if I'm focusing on myself too much?

Self-sins can be harder to pick up on because they're under the surface. Stealing, lying, or physically hurting an innocent person are easy to spot and repent from. But it's possible to get trapped in your own bubble of self, which is a slippery slope toward an abundance of self-absorption, self-confidence, and self-love. To be clear, it's OK to have confidence and care for yourself, but these cannot be your everything or more important than your relationships with God or others.

If you find yourself focusing more on what YOU want to get, where YOU want to go, and what YOU want to do more than you focus on what GOD wants to grant you, where HE wants you to go, and what HE wants you to do, then you have stepped into self-worship. If you find you're getting extremely angry when things don't go your way, self-pity will be just around the corner.

Don’t be like King Ahab

King Ahab is the best example the Bible records about self-pity. King Ahab's wife was the wicked Jezebel. This couple was downright evil; they cared nothing about God or others. One day, King Ahab wanted to buy a vineyard from a man named Naboth, but Naboth didn’t want to sell it. So what did Ahab do? He went and had a tantrum on his bed. No, really, read 1 Kings 21:4. He pitied himself because he didn't get what he wanted, and he thought that was unfair. Boo hoo.

King Ahab’s self-pity was so extreme that he refused to be happy again until Jezebel crafted a way to kill Naboth and get the vineyard for her husband (1 Kings 21:15-16). Yeeah. Self-pity leads to all sorts of bad things—sometimes murder. Not good!

How can I stop feeling self-pity?

When we indulge our sinful nature and dive into self-pity, we make ourselves the most important thing in our lives—even over God. Self-pity tells us we deserve better things in life than what we currently have. Yet, the Bible tells us not to think of ourselves more highly than we should (Romans 12:3). As Christians, we should be humble. (See Luke 14:8-11.) We should not place ourselves above God or anyone else.

That said, sometimes we DO feel self-pitying, right? We can't always help how we feel in the moment, but we CAN help how we respond to those feelings. Here are two ways to guard yourself when self-pity seeks to take control:

1. Be #thankful.

One of the very best ways to combat self-pity is by being thankful and expressing gratitude for all of the things that we DO have in our lives. Even if your life is not the exactly how you prefer, we can bet there are things in your life to be thankful for. Do you have clothes on your back? Did you have a meal today? Do you have a place to live? Do you have access to internet? Even if you can’t think of anything to be thankful for, you can always be thankful for your salvation in Jesus Christ. We are to be thankful in all circumstances, no matter what (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

2. Be #selfless.

When we turn our focus away from ourselves and place it on serving God and others selflessly, it's hard to continue feeling sorry for ourselves. When we consider the wonderful things He can do though us (and we act on them!), our selfLESSness overshadows our selfISHness (Hebrews 13:16). Selflessness cannot co-exist with self-pity. When we choose to focus on the goodness of God rather than our self-pity, we walk in the truth of God’s love.

If you've developed a habit of self-pity, it's going to be difficult to overcome that self-pitying state, but it's NOT impossible! In each moment, choose to walk in the Spirit rather than in the flesh (Galatians 5:16).

At the end of the day, God does know what's best—even if we don’t understand it at the time (Proverbs 3:5-6). Yes, life can be tough, but God works out everything for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28). Self-pity is not part of the life God calls us to, and we should not entertain self-pitying thoughts for more than a fleeting moment. Let's redirect our focus from a self-pitying state to potential selflessness for our awesome, mighty God.

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TL;DR

Self-pity happens when we feel we've been treated unfairly by life. We pout, complain, and feel sorry for ourselves. The root of self-pity is selfishness and uncontrolled self-importance. Christians should not wallow in self-pity because it leads to sin and inhibits the righteous life God calls us to live. Self-pity causes us to focus on ourselves rather than God. The remedy for self-pity is a heart full of gratitude and selflessness (1 Thessalonians 5:18; Hebrews 13:16). God knows the best for our lives, and He truly does work out everything for our good (Romans 8:28).

By: Vivian Bricker

Vivian loves learning, studying the Word of God, and helping others in their walk with Christ. She is dedicated to helping people learn more about Jesus and is ready to help in any way she can. Her favorite things to do are spending time with her family and friends, cooking, drawing, and spending time outside. When she is not writing, you can find her soaking up the sunshine or going on an adventure.

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