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  • David A. Case

Self Pity


Have you ever tried to help someone who is in self pity? It is like being in quick sand. The more effort you put in, the faster you will sink into an ugly pit right along with them.

Anything you say or do to a self pity person can or will be used against you. For that matter, anything that you fail to do or say may be used against you. The core of the self pity person is “I deserve.” So even what you fail to do that fits their “I deserve” mindset can become an offense.

The self pity person has a built in defense mechanism against getting better. Their victim mentality all but assures that any advice given will be taken as if it were meant to intentionally wound them. We see life from inside of where we are spiritually. The person who believes himself to be a victim, to be receiving less than he deserves from life, will invariably interpret everything he hears and sees from that point of view. Thus, if you are trying to help someone in this state, expect to be misinterpreted.

There is a kind of built in arrogance in self pity. Notice the first word. Self. I deserve … better than I am getting. Do you hear the entitlement? Those who set out to make the world a better place don’t think like that. They serve. Those who believe they should be “served” by the world are sitting in the seat of arrogance.

The arrogance is generally accompanied by self hatred. Again, self. How can a person be arrogant and self hating at the same time? A person who knows that he needs help will reach out to others. A person who believes that he can fix the problem will push others away and try to discipline himself. As the self discipline becomes more and more harsh, it takes on the form of self hatred. But there is still a stubborn belief in the self pity person that he is the only one who can fix the problem. Arrogance. A refusing to listen. An ongoing pattern of beating up of self.

The beating up of self provides another layer of insulation. Most “advice” will sound like something the person has already told himself. Because of that, the person can say within himself, “I’ve already got that covered. You aren’t telling me anything I don’t already know.” On the one hand is an arrogance that virtually refuses to hear and on the other hand, there is a self hatred that interprets any correction as attack. When attack comes, the person makes himself out to be a martyr.

These two tendencies form a heads and tails approach to life that is able to deflect just about any effort from others that might be helpful. If a person approaches with correction, the martyr card goes up. If a person approaches with a kindness and sincerity, the “I’ve got this. I don’t need your help!” response is put forward.

The different feelings of heads and tails gives the self pity person the illusion of growth and change. Actually, both are driven by the same arrogance of “I deserve.” One side of the coin is more manic, going full blast to take on life “by myself.” The other side is depressed and victimized and helpless. Both are driven by same spiritual flow of arrogance. They look different but they are two sides of the same coin.

So how do we help a self pity person get better? Generally, we have to wait and watch for an opportune time. There will be a point in time where the person has some level of humility—some level of openness to help or to honest feedback. We need to learn to wait and watch until that time. Pressing for change before the person is ready will likely mean that when the person could have been ready, he will not be ready to hear anything from you.

Second, we need to understand that a self pity person cannot be talked out of his self pity. If we try to speak to him about his self pity or victim mentality, he will see and interpret from inside of his spiritual flow and it will not go well. The more attention we pay to a person in that state, the worse the monster gets. Attention feeds the “I deserve.” Attention feeds the arrogance that is hidden by the self hatred.

A self pity person can only get better by action. There has to be a change of focus. When we get a self pity person involved in an activity, the person often gets caught up in a new spiritual flow. He stops focusing on self for a moment. During that time, there can be an openness to hear. The advice that would never be accepted while he is caught up in the victim world can sometimes be heard. We hear according to what is currently flowing in our heart. We generally have to help the self pity person move to a new location spiritually before he can ever hear anything about the self absorbed state of his life.

The most powerful word in heart change is trust. Trust is demonstrated by response. If a self pity person will simply go with other people, eventually getting out of self and involved with life, change happens. The Bible calls that obedience. Responding to something outside of self. And becoming a servant to God and others. Those are the keys to transforming the self pity person.

Self pity—don’t talk about it! If you do, it will likely backfire. Build trust connections and then get the person to join you on the journey of life. Avoid the quick sand! There is a way to be a more effective influencer to bring godly heart change!


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