In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.
1 Thessalonians 5:18
I recently read an examination of conscience especially written for single people. It focused on the vice of self-pity. Singles feel they don’t have that special someone to share everything with. It makes sense that self-pity would afflict them.
As I read it, though, I couldn’t think why self-pity would be such a bad thing, something that you would identify as the main problem of your spiritual life.
Boy, oh, boy! That’s when it hit!
Piece of advice: Don’t wonder stuff about God unless you really want an answer. Which… you know. You should. But just “caveat mirator”… or something…
Grows out of doubt
Self-pity is born out of misplacing your self-worth. When Vanity is the cause, for example, self-pity comes from comparison. Someone else is in a better place than you. He has better tools. Of course he can do better than you can. His increase in worth makes you useless. Your resentment for that person, as well as for those observing, grows.
When Pride is the cause, self-pity comes from believing that you know better than God. You know you can’t do anything with this situation. The tools He’s provided are insufficient. He should know you can’t do any good here. You identify your worth and ability with something that isn’t present. The end result is the same as that of vanity: you can’t stand yourself or other people.
Like any good vice, self-pity comes of loving yourself too much. It is a strong discouragement to charity. It focuses your attention on what you can’t do instead of allowing you to appreciate the goods around you.
When self-pity grabs you, that place you’re in, those people you’re with, are stifling. You want to be anywhere else but there. You close up so you really can’t help them. You don’t want to hear their goods and bads; none of that will help you with your own.
This causes resentment towards those around you who can’t see your struggles. Every person seems to add to your pain rather than relieve it. Self-pity grows into resentment.
The difficulty with self-pity is that it touches so many aspects of our lives. It is hard to find one virtue that will stomp it out. Sometimes it must be fought with gratitude, sometimes with perspective, sometimes with charity, sometimes with a stiff upper lip. In most cases, it will be a mixture of many virtues.
Self-pity comes from a misplaced sense of worth. We feel sorry for ourselves when circumstances seem to prove us worthless after all. The all-encompassing virtue that fights this lack of self-worth is Confidence. We must grow in Confidence of ourselves, but more than anything, we must grow in confidence of God and His love for us.
We must trust that God means us to be here, now, with these people, and that we must use the tools He has given us and no others.
In all circumstances give thanks.
10 thoughts on “Self-Pity”
Pingback: Sorrow and Sadness | A Grain of Salt
What you wrote made me think of something Thomas says when writing about sloth:
Objection 3. Further, that which proceeds from a good root is, seemingly, no sin. Now sloth proceeds from a good root, for Cassian says (De Instit. Monast. x) that “sloth arises from the fact that we sigh at being deprived of spiritual fruit, and think that other monasteries and those which are a long way off are much better than the one we dwell in”: all of which seems to point to humility. Therefore sloth is not a sin.
Reply to Objection 3. It is a sign of humility if a man does not think too much of himself, through observing his own faults; but if a man contemns the good things he has received from God, this, far from being a proof of humility, shows him to be ungrateful: and from such like contempt results sloth, because we sorrow for things that we reckon evil and worthless. Accordingly we ought to think much of the goods of others, in such a way as not to disparage those we have received ourselves, because if we did they would give us sorrow.
This is from II-II q35 a1, which treats sloth as a sin against the joy that flows from charity, but as he says, that disordered sorrow can proceed from lack of gratitude.
LikeLiked by 1 person
That’s really helpful for me. 🙂 Thanks for sharing, Sr. Maria Barrett!
Pingback: Sacrifice | A Grain of Salt
Pingback: Adoration | A Grain of Salt
Pingback: The Joy of Humility | A Grain of Salt
Pingback: Unity Like Dew | A Grain of Salt
Pingback: Excessive Prudence | A Grain of Salt
Pingback: Faith | A Grain of Salt
Pingback: The Problem of Melancholy | A Grain of Salt