(This is the fourth blog in a series of five, entitled “Rooms to Stay Out Of: Self-Pity, Failure, and Regret.” It is taken from Lesson 6 in Happy School Advanced, a study of the book, Happy School.)
Recently, a friend of mine asked me to meet with her younger sister because her sister is struggling with several extremely difficult situations. Both sisters are lovely and godly women.
The older sister gave me a heads’ up on the younger sister’s problems. She has reared a difficult, autistic child (that still lives with her) and is currently living in remission from breast cancer. Then, without her permission, her husband invested in a get-rich-quick scheme and lost the couple’s savings.
Just hearing the younger sister’s story, I felt wild empathy and compassion for her. I said to myself for a moment, “Maybe it’s okay for this woman to have some self-pity since her situation is so very difficult.” (Of course, I quickly wised up and remembered that self-pity would not ultimately be helpful to her, though.)
Then before I hung up with the older sister, she confided, “I feel guilty saying this, but as much as I love my sister, and as much patience as I’ve tried to have with her for the last few years, it is getting difficult for me to continue to have patience with her as it seems all she does is complain. Of course, I do understand her life is hard, but I don’t want to continually spend hours a week listening to her problems.”
The point of this story, friend, is that as much as your family loves you, they will eventually get tired of hearing you constantly complain. Husbands get tired of it, siblings and friends get tired of it, and adult children get tired of it.
I understand that life can be hard. And sure, it’s fine to share your burdens with a few select people. But don’t be one of those women who, if they get you alone, trap you for 30 minutes while they tell you, in detail, how unfair and terrible their life is. If you’re struggling with self-pity, I want you to know that even those who love you most don’t like your steady fire hose of complaining. Eventually, it will actually make people want to avoid you.
One young girl told me that her mother complained to her constantly, starting when the girl was around 15. She loved her mother dearly and wanted to help her. Therefore she spent hours being her mother’s best friend, listening to her mother’s self-pity and rantings. But when the young girl got to be around 25, she said she didn’t want to spend several hours a week listening to her mother complain about life anymore. She felt guilty saying this, but she wished she could escape her mother.
Friend, I know some of you are dealing with very tumultuous and life-altering circumstances. And I offer you my deepest sympathy. But for your own sake, don’t wear out your close friends and family. Just mark it down, self-pity makes you unattractive to others. I’m telling you this because they won’t tell you. Maybe you’ve noticed they call a little less, or offer to get together a little less. Even the most loyal of your support group can only take so much murmuring.
Instead, maybe you can join or form a support group. And remember, there is always a Listening Ear in heaven.
I’m sorry. That sounded harsh. But you don’t want your family and friends to pull away. Therefore, deal with your self-pity. Deal with your disappointments. Prayerfully, take massive action to solve your problems. Quarantine the disappointment and Move into Another Room in Your Brain. It’s the only healthy choice.
The Proverbs 31 woman found a way to laugh at the days to come. You too must find a way to deal with your hard circumstances and self-pity, so you too can laugh at the days to come. Learning to have a happy heart and to live above your circumstances is what we are doing in Happy School.
The great Apostle Paul said while in prison, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances” (Phil. 4:11). You too, my friend, can learn how to be content.
The next blog in this series is #5 out of 5, entitled Focusing on Self-Pity (Your WMDs) or Being Grateful for Your Portion. You can access all the blogs now at JulieNGordon.com under the Happy School Advanced tab. Scroll down to Lesson 6.