The bitter fruits of self-pity

Self-pity leads to resentment, despair, and cowardice.

All problems that can be dealt with and solved in Christian counselling sessions are always due to the pride, self-centeredness and self-pity of the counsellee.

If this proposition sounds harsh, unloving and crude, then I will propose that you listen carefully for the BIBLICAL evidence.

But it is important at the very outset to distinguish between organic illnesses (that do not make us sin) and spiritual and moral failures in man (from which man is held responsible to repent). I am seeking hereby to restore a right balance between that for which a counsellee cannot be held responsible and that for which he is fully responsible, before God and society.

It is known for a fact that where there is said to be a medical problem, whether it is true or not, or where they have been classified as "mentally ill," self-pitying counsellees invariably use this to excuse their behaviour. They anchor themselves in this comfortable and convenient excuse. Their tendency, just like everybody else, is to find an external excuse for them that avoids any guilt devolving upon themselves. When they hear the physiatrist pontificating that they are ill, what else would they need?

On the contrary, it is found that once the counsellee has realised that he is responsible for his present situation, he will begin to put his own life in order and little additional counselling may be actually needed.

Now it is both scriptural and crucial in our case to come to grips with the human situation, as fallen creatures in Adam. Pride and self-centeredness, our natural state in sin, include self-pity. It is when people cannot get their own way and feel frustrated in their designs that they can descend into self-pity, an ever-increasing spiral (unless confronted with and repented of).

They then may begin to display one or more of the many forms of "mental illness." But once they repent of self-pity, then all the rest of their troubles melt away. Self-pity leads to all the behaviour patterns common to counsellors.

The terms used in psychoanalysis and other related pseudo-sciences are actually descriptions of various kinds of sinful behaviour arising from self-pity, such as we constantly find in the record of God's Word, beginning from the case of Cain: "My punishment is more than I can bear...".

No-one is a hysteric, or a schizoid or paranoid by nature. They are rebellious against God by nature (original sin), and therefore are behaving in an hysteric, schizoid or paranodi way.

There is only one situation that precipitates bad behaviour. In a nutshell it is: "I can't have my own way." Adam was the first one to, if not express it explicitly, to act upon this philosophy of life. All men, fallen in him, act the same way.

This can be realized in three different situations:

1. "That which makes me happy has been denied me or taken away." This leads to resentment.

2. "That which gives meaning and purpose to life has been denied me or taken away." This leads to despair.

3. "That which enables me to cope with life has been denied me or taken away." This leads to cowardice and timidity.

And it is the outworkings of these three attitudes that lead to all forms of irresponsible behaviour which psychiatrists have called "mental illness."

Christian counselling will seek to lay the cards on the table for the counsellee to look at. It will endeavour to prove that such attitudes are all stemming from self-pity, loving self rather than loving God and neighbour, paying to much attention on yourself rather than self-denial, as the gospel demands of us all.

By the grace of God these corrupt attitudes can be broken down and replaced with godly and loving attitudes. In such breakdown, and in recovering from them, we realize how good they have been to us, for thus we are delivered from passionately loving ourselves (thus self-pity) to such an extent that we would want the world to revolve around us. But the moral order of things, of course, is not built around us. It is built around Christ.

The answer to self-pity is to see our worthlessness, but also to rejoice in God who graciously opened the way of reconciliation to Him through the blood of the cross. We should not pity ourselves, but the gospel says that God has pitied us, in Christ, who died as our substitute to bring us unto God (1 Peter 2:24; 3:18).

This does not mean that we deserved pity; it only exalts the greatness of God's unmerited love towards us; and if God so loved us, then we also ought to love one another (not only ourselves).