AVOIDING THE WRONG KIND OF HUMILITY:† SELF-PITY
Eric Snow, sermonette, 11-5-05, Ann Arbor, MI† UCG
Could pride be the ultimate sin?† After all, what turned the great archangel Lucifer into Satan?† Was it not a sense of self-importance, vanity, and that he knew things God didnít?† This then led to all other sins.† Is not pride the ultimate way for one of Godís creatures to declare independence from the God that it depends on for continued existence, even for its every breath?† Itís the sin that blinds us as to how important we really are in Godís master plan.† Self-exaltation renders us useless in Godís plan, and makes it impossible for Him to work with us, to the extent we engage in it.
But now, the opposite of pride is the Christian virtue of humility, in which Godís creatures know their place, and abase themselves in faith before Godís superior wisdom and judgment.† But now, letís consider a self-deceiving, even dangerous form of humility, and thatís self-pity.† When we feel sorry for ourselves, we should be on our spiritual guard, for thatís when this false form of humility attacks us.
S.P.S.† Christians should fight against self-pity and any false forms of self-abasement.† We should not let humility become an excuse to do nothing or to think God doesnít care about our troubles.
Letís define more what weíre talking about:†
Websterís:† Pity:† ďSympathetic sorrow for one suffering, distressed, or unhappy.Ē† Self-pity:† ďPity for oneself, esp.:† A self-indulgent dwelling on oneís own sorrows or misfortunes.Ē† (Emph. removed).
The proto-Gnostic heretics troubling the Colossians fell into a false sense of self-abasement through some kind of ascetic self-denial, like monks would do in the Middle Ages.† Do we deny ourselves things that arenít sinful to have out of self-pity or overdone repentance?† Are we trying to be more righteous than God sometimes?
Compare v. 18:† Self-pity & pride can be tied together.
Perhaps the greatest danger of self-pity is the sense of self-immobilization it causes.† We give up, and donít do things that could actually help us in our situation, out of a sense of weakness.† Thus it can become a vicious circle:† By doing nothing, we become that much weaker, and therefore feel that much worse about ourselves.† Social initiative example:† We fear rejection, so we pull back, giving ourselves that much more of a reason to feel sorry about ourselves.† (And, incidentally, morally condemn others before any rejection by them actually occurs).† We shouldnít give up in advance of trying.† Make sure rejection occurs first, force those people to put themselves on the record.† Instead, they may make themselves marvels of accommodation instead.
I Kings 19:4-18
Notice Elijahís complaints.† Then notice what God does in somewhat oblique reply:† Has him get up and do things.† He also corrects his mistaken impression that he was the only servant of God left, so I should just give up and die.† Notice that self-pity is a kind of precursor to suicidal thoughts also.
Self-pity can also be used as a manipulative tool:† Make others feel sorry for you so you can get your way.† That leads to the question as to what extent it is a pose or a game.† But we shouldnít use humility as a claim on God, as Elijah was doing effectively, or on other people. †It becomes an excuse to accuse others of mistreating you then.
Jonah 4:1-11, esp. vs. 3-4, 8-10.
Here self-pity was used by Jonah to accuse God of being unfair, of having undeserved mercy on the enemy pagan gentile capital city of the Assyrian Empire.
In reply to feelings of self-pity, we should realize we are valuable to God, but only because He cares about us, and brings true meaning to our lives by ultimately allowing us to live forever in union with Him.† God died for men made in His image, not for rats or cockroaches.† Self-esteem a highly problematic concept; but self-respect, a tamer idea, more apt to be correct, so long as based on Godís valuing us, not purely us valuing ourselves.
Psychological insight:† Donít wait to feel better to do something; instead, force yourself to do something, and then youíll feel better.
Conclusion:† We should avoid the false humility of self-pity.† We shouldnít let feelings of worthlessness keep us from doing things for ourselves or others.† We shouldnít doubt Godís love for ourselves because we feel weak socially, emotionally, intellectually, or financially.† If we doubt that others love us, we start doubting even that minimal self-love or self-respect that we should have for ourselves.† Shakespeare in Richard III: †ďI shall despair.† There is no creature loves me;† And if I die, no soul will pity me:† Nay, wherefore should they, since that I myself find in myself no pity to myself.Ē