The Subtleties of Self Pity
Its a fell feeling that creeps up on us. Its deceptive too, cloaking itself in false humility, it acts as if by entertaining it you are justly taking action. It’s a disease and it affects many believers who have yet to grasp the reality of being redeemed. You probably know how it starts. You’ll be walking along, living life, dancing perhaps with one thing or another when you make a mistake. You go just a bit to far with something you should never have entertained at all and you find yourself on the north side of sin. And you feel guilty. You kick yourself a bit for being stupid. You think of what you wasted and it gets you depressed. This may not be the first time either, and you start thinking back to all the other times you screwed up just the same way. So you get up and try walking on, but you still feel bad. The next time you fail it doesn’t take as long. You show even less resistance than you did the last time, and the cycle starts over again, only it’s shorter this time.
For some, the feeling of inferiority is a chronic disease, a constant drain on much of what we do. In our minds we constantly compare ourselves to what other people have accomplished. We think, "If only I had not wasted so much time, if only I had worked harder I could be where they are now." A pervasive lie. The feeling of guilt, the constant reminder that we aren’t as perfect as we feel we should be, the insistent desire to be better than we know we are… all symptoms of the same problem.
It’s a feeling I am well acquainted with. Growing up the middle child of three boys, I was the typical bane of my older brothers existence. Like most middle children, I craved affirmation more so than my siblings and I was intensely competitive for it. I constantly doubted myself and for most of my teen years I would swing between the extremes of arrogance and self-doubt. Early in my life I got caught up in an addiction. I was saved when I was six and the constant contention between my flesh, embodied in my addiction, and the Holy Spirit was slowly wearing me down. My addiction started when I was ten and it wasn’t until I was seventeen that I finally acknowledged it, told my parents everything and began the process of getting free.
You learn much of human nature when you have to deal with the worst of its attitudes in yourself. One of the biggest lessons God has taught me deals with the issue of Pride and its many subtleties. Pride of course goes much deeper than its close cousin arrogance, and when properly defined is much better described as, "Seeing yourself as God sees you, no more and no less that what you truly are". Low self-esteem is at its root an issue of pride. At seventeen I finally found forgiveness for seven years of sinful habit, but lies that have been lived for that long do not die easily. And at the root of every sin you will find a lie. One of the most destructive lies Satan had deceived me with was that even though scripture said I was forgiven, and that in the sight of God I was as perfect as Christ because of the blood shed on the cross, that somehow I still needed to make up for what I had done.
Breaking habits is hard, and requires you alter the way you think. It took me years to root out many of the lies I had fallen prey to. But I can remember one summer about four years ago. It had not been a good couple weeks, and I had cycled to almost the bottom again. Make a mistake after doing well for some time, get mad at myself and try harder, make another mistake and get depressed, kick myself for a while and try again only to fail, each time wearing myself down further. I came to the conclusion that it was doing me no good to get mad and frustrated with myself because it only made it harder to fight the battle later. If God had forgiven me all my sins the day He died on the cross, and if I was His child, adopted and sealed in His love, then I was no different in His eyes after my sin than I was before it. He had known about my sin before I committed it and had loved me regardless. To admit sin is right and it is vital we ask for forgiveness, but the feelings of inferiority and self abuse were Satan’s tools, not Christ’s. His love is unconditional. I decided I would not feel bad. If I made a mistake, I would acknowledge it as sin, ask forgiveness and walk on. The greatest thing I could do for Christ was to remain obedient, beating myself up for my inadequacies gives Christ nothing of value.
My pastor recently told me that for him, knowing his purpose, the one God had for him, did more to help him than any other thing. We were talking about contentment, which in many ways is the product of prides antithesis. Pride is an attitude rooted in the desire for self. It wants. It wants to see itself lifted up, acknowledged, and gratified. Pride breeds the lusts that breed discontent. Pride will always ask for more. Humility, because it sees itself honestly, as God sees desires nothing more than to respond in gratitude to what it has been given. Because we have been given much.
Humility is inextricably tied to Love and they cannot exist apart. A humble man will know that who he is remains a matter that God decided a long time ago. A humble man will take stock of his talents, desiring no more or less than what he has been given, and when prompted by love will respond with what he has been given to the best of his ability. Like the parable of the talents, God is not concerned with how much we accomplish, but how hard we try. How much we can accomplish is a direct result of how much He gave us and thus something for which He gets the glory. Our reward is gained through obedience.
Getting back to my main point. It pains me often to hear people say that they are left destitute of talent, that if only they were different they would be better. Everyone is just how God made them, and that means they are perfect if His perfection. Sure, we are a fallen race, yet we are redeemed and Paul when he spoke those vital words, "I can do all things though Christ who strengtheneth me" echo’s the important truth that if you are redeemed you are perfect in His perfection. It is more important that you are content with who you than being content with what you have. To cry out against who you are is to proclaim your mistrust in God’s wisdom and your lack of faith in the power of God.
We don’t have to live there, for we are redeemed. And redemption is such a gift that can inspire gratitude to stand up and live an abundant life because God wants that for us. He does not desire pain for the children of His adoption. God knew that we would have to face much in our lives. You can’t escape the consequences of your actions completely. But in His infinite wisdom, God has made a way for you to enjoy life regardless of the trials you must endure. Weather you live your life with joy or with sorrow is a matter of choice, and that choice is I believe one of contentment, contentment with who you are. Don’t hide your talent, and do not covet the talents of those around you. Remember you will be rewarded for how hard you try, not how much you achieve. Its a beautiful system, for in the end God receives all the glory.
This article is a draft, and I intent to annotate and expand scripturally on several points. So, please feel free to comment on any grammatical or compositional errrors or gripes you find, as well as the basic tenents put forth. Any criticism or insight is appreciated.