No. 185



The old Roman philosopher and playwright Lucius Annaeus Seneca once said, "Pity is a mental illness induced by the spectacle of other people's misery." Who among us in this prosperous land we call America has not felt pity on the hordes of humanity who have been driven from their homes, raped and pillaged by thugs and villains who were stronger and more powerful? This is a spectacle we have seen far too often in the past several years and my heart always goes out to these people, especially the innocent who are simply caught in the middle. While there is little I can do about it, save pray for them and give my blessings for a portion of my tax money to be used in an attempt to alleviate their suffering. In short, I have pity on these people. I have often said, "There but for the Grace Of God, go I."

It's a natural human emotion to have pity for others who are downcast, but it can be a very destructive emotion if and when that pity is directed toward ourselves. This is known as self-pity and we all know people who live there every day of their lives. It's been said that an honest confession is good for the soul and I want to say up front that there have been times when I have also had myself a little pity party. These times came along when I had worked hard and didn't get the promotion or breaks that I thought I deserved and things were not going my way. Along about here I began to feel sorry for myself. Have you been there too?

To be sure, none of us likes to be around a constant complainer or whiner and fortunately my few excursions into the pit of self-pity have not been too deep or lasted too long. I might add, this was years ago because I have since matured and learned to take full responsibility for my actions. If I want things to be better in my life, with God's help, it's up to me to make it better.

Over the past several months I have discussed a number of "Natural Laws" in my column and remember, a natural law is a series of events in nature that have been observed to occur with unvarying uniformity. In other words, given the same exact circumstances, the outcome or result will always be the same. A "Success Law" on the other hand is a positive application of a natural law, so as to use it to our advantage. That is, to help us become happier and more successful.

When and if self-pity strikes you, here is what I hope you will remember. The feeling of self-pity is often born out of paying too much attention to what we don't have, rather than being grateful for what we do have. If the legendary blind Helen Keller could say, "self-pity is our worst enemy", who are we to give it the time of day? In the course of our daily activities here is what we should always keep in mind. First, we should always be aware of the destructive emotion of self-pity. It's an internal sore by which the human personality is immobilized, but it can be cured by right thoughts and working constantly to achieve something worthwhile. The only way we can overcome self-pity is to take our thoughts off ourselves and our problems and begin to think about others and how we can help or serve them in some way.

It's true, self-pity is a very expensive emotion and one that we can certainly do without. This may be a trite and overworked story but it still makes a very valid point. There was a man who felt sorry for himself because he had no shoes and then he saw a man who had no feet. If by chance along about now you are having a pity-party about something, lace up your boots, put a smile on your face and start looking for something you can do for someone else. You will find that your self-pity will evaporate like the dew on a spring morning. (Jim Davidson is a motivational speaker and syndicated columnist. You may contact him at 2 Bentley Drive, Conway, AR 72034.)