No. 1310



Lucius Annaeus Seneca, the old Roman philosopher and playwright, 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, the home of the free and the land of the brave, have 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 caught in the middle. 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.
It is 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 us. This is known as self-pity, and we all know people who live there each day of their lives. It has 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 did not 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, no one likes to be around a constant complainer or whiner, and fortunately my 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 have learned to take full responsibility for my actions. If I want things to be better in my life, with God’s help, it is up to me to make them better. Several years ago when I first started this column I did a series on “Natural Laws,” and every once in a while I like to go back and pull one out and reexamine it in the light of my current situation. With regards to self-pity, I just shake my head and say, “Thank God, I am not the person I used to be.” Do you ever feel this way?
Here is the good news I have learned: If and when self-pity strikes, remember that 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 deaf-blind author 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 of other people and how we can help and 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.” You cannot believe the joy that has come to me because of the success of our Conway Bookcase Project. When we do for others, self-pity will evaporate like the dew on a spring morning.
(Editor’s Note: Jim Davidson is an author, public speaker, syndicated columnist and Founder of the Bookcase for Every Child project. Since its inception in 1995, Jim’s column has been self-syndicated to over 375 newspapers in 35 states making it one of the most successful in the history of American journalism.)