The Hebrew and Greek words translated “compassion” in the Bible mean “to have mercy, to feel sympathy and to have pity.” (GotQuestions.org) The Greek word eleeo occurs only once (Mt. 18:33 “pity”), and it means “to be kind,” “tender.”
In our society, we have been taught that ‘self-pity’ is always bad. The words ‘pity’ and ‘compassion’ have been separated to have different definitions. The often stated accusation is: “He/She is having a pity-party” with a negative connotation. The problem with this is that many who are suffering then face a barrage of shame and unfounded guilt resulting in harsh and critical self-judgement. We are accused of having a ‘victim-mentality’ if we are feeling the least bit sorry for ourselves. We then resort to hiding and suppressing our feelings to the point of self-detriment. Those of us who have lost a child, been raped, been abused are victims. We are not pretending to be victims, we are not putting on a show of victim hood. We have, in fact, been victimized. In order to have any semblance of healing, we need to be mindful of what we are feeling…and self-pity is often a part of it. “If we can’t feel, we can’t heal.”
After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church– for we are members of his body. (Ephesians 5:29-30).
Once again, we must find balance. Unfounded guilt in caring for one’s self is out of balance. If you break your leg, should you not attend to it? If you have cataracts, should you not acknowledge it and get the necessary care? Why is it that if we have a broken heart and spend time nurturing it, are we accused of self-pity? Are we not allowed to have compassion toward ourselves? Is it wrong to show ourselves tenderness? Is being kind to oneself idolatry? What advice would you give a close friend who has been victimized? Is that advice only good for others and not ourselves?
Self pity is often perceived as wallowing.
What’s so insidious about this is that it reveals an utter lack of understanding of what wallowing actually is. Wallowing is literally defined as an unrestrained indulgence; as something that creates a pleasurable sensation. Grieving takes many forms, but it sure as hell isn’t a pleasurable indulgence. Unfortunately, perceptual biases are strong. So long as the experience of grieving is deemed to be “negative,” grieving will continue its longstanding association with wallowing and negativity. (Tim Lawrence)
Was Jesus feeling self-pity in the Garden of Gethsemane when He asked our Heavenly Father for this cup of suffering He was about to endure be removed? Was Paul feeling self-pity when he prayed three times for his ‘thorn in the flesh’ to be removed? Some actually may answer both questions with a resounding: “YES”. There are folks that would tell both: “Suck it up”; “Be strong”; “Be a man”; “Stop acting like a victim”. Now if we change the lingo around and call it ‘self-compassion’ or ‘self-kindness’ fewer objections may be heard. It’s more acceptable to show one’s self kindness and tenderness; in fact, it is often encouraged. If you break your leg, you will be told to: “Take it easy”; “Rest”; “Don’t push yourself”; “You need to take time to heal, however long it takes”. Is that because the wound is more visible? Yet, when you have been internally wounded and devastated, the accusations and even self-talk within our heads is far more brutal.
We often will hear that God has forgiven us so we must forgive ourselves. Well, God also shows us Grace; shall we not show Grace also unto ourselves? God shows us compassion; shall we not also be compassionate toward ourselves? God shows us tenderness and kindness; shall we then deny such toward ourselves? We learn how to treat others by how God treats us and also by how we treat ourselves. Someone who is very demanding upon themselves will most likely be very demanding on others. Someone who is very harsh toward themselves will most likely be harsh toward others. To ‘love our neighbor as ourselves’ does not mean to make an idol of our neighbor unless, of course, we are ourselves guilty of self-idolatry.
Yes, self-pity can be harmful when it is out of balance. It can lead to a downward cycle of depression and even self-harm. At the other end of the spectrum, if we lack any self-pity we can become hardened and non-caring about ourselves, as well as, others. Pity is similar to the emotion of anger. In itself, it is not a bad thing. It is in how we react/respond to such emotions that can be good or bad. Wallowing in self-pity is not a good thing. However, having pity/compassion/kindness toward one’s self is a good thing. You can give yourself permission to be kind toward yourself and do what is needed to heal just as you would if you broke your leg. You don’t have to hide it; you don’t have to rip off your cast and say: “I can take it”. Know that God suffers right along with you: “In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them: in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; and he bare them, and carried them all the days of old.” (IS. 63:9). Job pleaded for pity from his friends: “Have pity upon me, have pity upon me, O ye my friends; for the hand of God hath touched me.” (Job 19:21). ‘Pity is usually a tender feeling for another person who is in misery or distress because of some unforeseen, uncontrollable, or accidental crisis.’ (Bible Tools).
Give yourself permission to have a ‘pity-party’ from time to time. You’re not making a career out of it. You are simply learning to be kind and compassionate toward yourself as you soak in the comfort of God so that, in turn, you can show the same unto others in their time of need.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. (2 Cor. 1:3-4).
(((HUGS))) Jude Gibbs, Author of ‘Gifts from the Ashes’ available at: Xulon Press, Amazon, Barnes & Noble and DeeperShopping. Additional international retailers: http://www.foyles.co.uk/witem/biography/gifts-from-the-ashes,jude-gibbs-9781498496728 http://www.upliftvstore.com/product.asp?sku=9781498496728 Also, a Contributor on ‘The Mighty’: https://themighty.com/author/jude-gibbs/
Also, see a more complete list at: http://www.directtextbook.com/isbn/9781498496728?geis=y Please help spread the Word. TY! (((HUGS)))