Pity, April 2014
From the Publisher - April 2014
“Self-pity is our worst enemy and if we yield to it, we can never do anything wise in this world.” -Helen Keller
I went to a birthday party last night and it was a lot of fun. I am also looking forward to the Pink Partini party on April 10 to celebrate Pink Magazine turning 10-years-old—very exciting. However, there is one party I never want to go to and that’s a pity party. I was reminded of this recently when I texted a friend. My text went something like this: I don’t feel good. I’ve sucked with eating healthy the last four days. I hate myself for it. I feel like crying.
The response I got back was: “This is not for me.”
I responded: “Yes it is.”
She responded: “No it’s not. It’s for you.”
At that, I was mad. I wanted some pity and she wasn’t offering any. In essence, I sent her a clear invitation to my pity party and she flat out turned me down. Are we still friends? Of course! After all, she was right. The text I sent wasn’t for her. She is not affected by how I eat or whether or not I stay on the course I have plotted for myself. She likes me no matter what. But, I was taken aback. I had to process her curtness and unwillingness to at least consider my pity party invitation. It was as if I had put a dead, dried up worm on the end of my hook and was mad at her for not biting.
So the text conversation proceeded by me saying: “What does that even mean? Just forget it. I should never show weakness to anyone.” Obviously, still mad because all I was looking for was a few words to make me feel better.
As I continued to fume and process this text exchange that was unfolding, I realized my approach was completely wrong and my friend was right in not indulging in my pity. Was I looking for someone to say, “It’s okay; you’ll do better tomorrow?” Yes. Should someone tell me it’s okay? No. Because while performing 100 percent is not always possible, justifying, praising, and numbing down unwanted behavior that disregards your goals is not the answer.
The text conversation continued, I wrote: “All you had to say is something like you can do it and that would have lifted me. I didn’t want the conversation to go awry, but I see why it did. It was my approach. I should have said something like Hey Alison. I’m derailing. Can you give me a few words of encouragement? I see where that would have completely changed the tone.”
It would have not only changed the tone of the conversation, but also of the problem, itself. The “I hate myself blah, blah, blah” took away my power and held me hostage to failure. I am thankful that Alison called me down and refused to play in the pity park with me. She forced me to analyze, realize and change my approach, thus giving me power over my problem.
I learn life lessons everyday, and this is one I am thankful to have learned with the help of a very dear friend, albeit an obstinate friend. Author Joyce Meyer says, “If someone decides they're not going to be happy, it's not your problem. You don't have to spend your time and energy trying to cheer up someone who has already decided to stay in a bad mood. Believe it or not, you can actually hurt people by playing into their self-pity.”
In sharing with you my pitiful story, I am hoping that you will see where you are allowing self-pity to engulf your power, steal your dreams and burden your relationships. We all do it. But some wallow in it. Best-selling author and psychologist Og Mandino once wrote, “Each day is a special gift from God, and while life may not always be fair, you must never allow the pains, hurdles and handicaps of the moment to poison your attitude and plans for yourself and your future. You can never win when you wear the ugly cloak of self-pity, and the sour sound of whining will certainly frighten away any opportunity for success.”
Getting real with yourself is not easy and the truth can hurt. In this case, I was stung, but I’m better for it. Pity never serves and has no need in hanging around. Perhaps that is why I adore the advice Author Debbie Macomber gives through her fictional character Mrs. Miracle, “It's all right to sit on your pity pot every now and again. Just be sure to flush when you are finished!” Now, on the count of three, let’s all flush. One, two, three!
Happy spring, Happy Easter, Happy Heritage and Happy Life!
Elizabeth Skenes Millen