‘Self-pity is so attractive,’ said no one ever. (A letter to my sons)

Dear Cam and Scott

Sometimes I can’t see self-pity in the mirror because I think I look so good wearing it. I twirl and turn to admire the fall of the fabric, the cut and the colours, like it’s all gorgeous and I can fool myself that I deserve this outfit because there’s no one in the world who could wear it so well. And I’m blind to how the guise hangs ugly-stiff. Ungodly. Unflattering.

And then I think about people a stone’s throw from my small pity pond where the ripples so don’t reach, say, Paris or Lagos. I think about people who live brave when the boss tells them to suck it up because someone has to get the raw deal. People who carry their health heavy and their hearts heavier. People wounded by the words of a someone-in-law. People in marriage counselling. People outside the ICU waiting for a loved one who may be a lost one.

Those people live brave not with the contrived expression of silent suffering or thinly masked martyrdom (‘No no… I’m fine…’ *sniff*). Those people know the truth about self-pity and I want you to know the truth too so that you’ll have the courage to crush self-pity before it crushes you.

Self-pity is deceitful. It has you believing that you’re the only one who feels like you’re the only one. Which is, of course, statistically impossible yet we grownups all gulp the lie gullible and live into the woe of imaginary isolation.

Self-pity is delicious. And dangerous. Because first you feel alone and then you feel something else. The spasms of anger and quiet grief are soothed by the sticky-black of sympathy-sludge closing in on your ankles as you trudge and the terrifying thing is that you don’t even mind because the mud sucking you in cool and numb is welcome relief. It’s kind of delectable to give in to the sinking because you’re exhausted from explosions of temper, implosions of hope. You scrawl some invites to Me, Myself and I and the bunch of yourselves hang out at your place to wallow.

Self-pity is defeatist. Because the irony is that no one feels sorry for those who feel sorry for themselves.

And boys, you know how much I want you to be strong, so I very much want you to understand all this because you’re in the first leg of the life race and self-pity can snap your hamstrings. Disqualify you from running hard to forget yourself and all that lies behind.

Mariane Pearl who had reason enough to feel sorry for herself said:

‘Try to avoid complaints. Self-pity, even when legitimate, never fails to undermine your strength.’

Even when legitimate.

Because you and me and everyone, we can promise and prove that we are sure as hell entitled to feel sorry for ourselves. But maybe we could retrain our brains to think of self-pity as getting the job but not taking it? As in, well done. You got it. You met all the criteria. But you should respectfully decline. You may deserve it, but this job isn’t right for you. You don’t want to work for that master.

So when your emotional toast is thinly buttered, you’re going to have to do a couple things in the seen and the unseen world.

On the outside of you, make like Elijah and have a snack and a snooze. (Kiddos, you know what low blood sugar does to my mood and yours. And fatigue is the best recipe for feeling like the world is against you.) Hug someone tight. Run ‘til your lungs burn and you feel free. Offer to help.

On the inside of you, delight yourself in the Lord. Lean in close. Go deep into his presence and preach gospel to yourself. Preach it to your own heart that your lousy circumstances are no threat to God’s changeless love and perfect power. And so your lousy circumstances are no threat to your faith. Pray for someone the way you would want someone to pray for you. And know that the king of Kings can. Be. Trusted.

With all my love, and arms wide open for your hugs and all your hurts,



. . .

Thanks for reading today! It would be so cool to hear from you. Feel free to leave a comment, contact me here, sign up to receive these posts by email or keep in touch on Facebook or Twitter.

And if you’re keen to make a difference in this world and could use a few scoops of hope? Pick up a copy of Dragons and Dirt: The truth about changing the world – and the courage it requires. (SA readers click here)


  1. oh wow, when your emotional toast is thinly buttered – love it – another great post my friend – the sucky bit was realising that ‘oh wait, she’s talking to me’ feelinh halfway through – so definitely needed and will do my best to act upon it and keep my toast spread with the thick crunchy peanut butter of Godly affirmation… or something…

    Keep on… my book getting ever closer…
    love brett fish


  2. To me, God is talking through you as that is right where I am right now and it can crush one. Thanks so much. I am always
    learning…never too old.Love the new photo of your boys! love, JB xx

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you! I needed to read this today. REALLY needed to read this. In the first trimester of pregnancy, feeling awful, with an almost 2 year old and all the demands of work, life, church, family… I needed this reality check. Thank you


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