Summary: Sermon on the destructive nature of feeling sorry for ourselves
Self-Pity: An Enemy of Joyous Living
Introduction: A woman was heartbroken when her dog disappeared. She put an ad in the paper offering a reward for its return. The next morning the phone rang. It was the voice of a woman: “I'm calling about your dog.” Then she began to cough. She explained she wasn't feeling too well. In fact, she hadn't felt well for 3 years since her husband had died. She went on to say that after her mother and father had passed away, that recently her sister had contracted cancer and was undergoing painful treatments. Her friends weren't doing well, either. She gave details of their various illnesses and went on to describe the funerals of several of them. After 30 minutes of this, the woman who had lost the dog tried to get the caller back on the subject. She asked, “But what about my dog?” The other woman replied, “Oh, I don't have him, but I thought you might be feeling badly about losing it, so I thought I'd just call to cheer you up!”
(sermon central ill.)
This is difficult to say without feeling harsh and judgmental, but here goes – self pity is an extreme form of pride, and usually a result of a very selfish perspective of the world. People who regularly feel sorry for themselves are miserable, and they tend to make others miserable as well. As I go through this understand that it's important to separate self-pity from discouragement and grief and sadness.
The person who engages in self-pity is looking to find happiness in the sympathy of others.
“self-pity is easily the most destructive of all non-pharmaceutical narcotics; its addictive, gives momentary pleasure, and separates the victim from reality.” - John Gardner
This morning, we will review the older son found in the story of the prodigal son. And we will see how He engaged in this non-pharmaceutical narcotic we call self-pity.
Scripture: Luke 15:25-32
I. We see the curse of Self-Pity (v28-30)
Self-Pity will destroy our happiness. “....older brother became angry and refused to go in...” (v.28)
The older brother was angry and would not go in. He was demonstrating his displeasure at all the joy at the reception of his brother. This is not an uncommon problem in families: Those who have enjoyed their parents love and affection think they should have the monopoly of their parent's favors, and they are far too harsh to those who have gained their parents affection, and they begrudge their parent's for it. “Self pity is a death that has no resurrection, a sinkhole from which no rescuing hand can drag you because you have chosen to sink.” -Elizabeth Elliot
Self Pity will destroy our usefulness for the kingdom. “...so his father went out and pleaded with him.” (v.28) Self pity will cause us to fail to see where we are needed. Because the son was feeling sorry for himself, He didn't know where He belonged. He didn't understand his purpose. This verse says the father went in to plead with him. And what good did it do him? It yielded nothing. He complained of a lack of appreciation, but whatever effort is made to console him, it was roundly rejected! The self-pitying person ignores any point made about what's right in their lives. They dismiss every positive pointed out in their lives. They don't want to acknowledge this because then they would no longer have a reason to feel bad for themselves. They have every reason in the world to be filled with joy and yet they are constantly complaining of the lack of sympathy from others. They're inconsolable!
Ill. I remember when my daughter Kaitlyn was a toddler and in order to get attention from her family she would throw herself backwards in dramatic fashion throwing a fit because she wasn't receiving the sympathy she thought she needed from her mother. But what was funny is she started hurting herself throwing herself backward so she would drag around a pillow to land on. She would peek around the corner to see if she was in view of her parents and then lay out the pillow and fall backwards. I thought it was funny how she would go to such lengths to get attention and sympathy. Kandy & I began to ignore her dramatic plight and eventually she learned not to do it.
When we walk in self pity, we long for attention, condolences, and admiration for our “unbearable sufferings”. Christians experiencing self pity want our egos massaged by others: “see my sacrifice”, “see my suffering”, “see at my heroic efforts.” just like a toddler who throws a tantrum for attention. You can not feel sorry for those who feel sorry for themselves. Not because of a lack of sympathy on your part but because they already get from themselves what you hope to give them. You simply can not offer them something that they already have. Its like applying for a job that's already been taken. Someone once said: “If you indulge in self-pity, the only sympathy you can expect is from the same source.” That's true!