Monday, March 30, 2015

Joy, Self-Pity, and the Victim Mentality

"Why do I have to have so many problems?" he asked through tears. His morning had been dominated by an oppressive OCD attack. He'd shouted, cried, and verbally wounded others, frustrated by everything.

And me? I fought hard for my own joy, trying to battle perimenopausal-linked pain like a Christian soldier. Hormonal swings are a challenge for every woman, in every part of life, and short of taking good care of ourselves and praying, there's nothing to be done but fight for joy through it.

Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war, 
with the cross of Jesus going on before. 
Christ, the royal Master, leads against the foe;
forward into battle see his banners go!

I immediately recognized the problem with my son's question:

"Why do I have to have so many problems?"

If you have special-needs children, or special needs of your own (and who doesn't?), you know self-pity. And the Holy Spirit? He's doing his work in your heart, no doubt. When we give in to the pity there's that nagging prick of conscience, and the more we resist the rebuke, the more miserable we feel.

With our salvation, we've been given the best. We are more blessed, more alive, more joyful, more at peace than the vast majority of humanity. Oh, Lord, may we never lose that perspective!

Self-pity is sin. It's also dysfunctional thinking that can create unfortunate operant conditioning patterns in our brains. When we give in to self-pity, the thought patterns are reinforced by the temporary uplift we get from seeing ourselves as victims rather than as thoughtful beings with choices. We don't feel culpable, which gives us a temporary relief from having to do something about our situation. 

After we've been truly victimized, we need a victim stance. We need to know our horrible experience was not our fault, but the fault of the perpetrator. But over time if we don't take responsibility for our responses to life, we become victims again--this time of our own dysfunctional thought patterns.

The longer we allow self-pity, the longer it takes to reform the way we think. A victim mentality prevents us from experiencing peace and joy. It also prevents us from being able to bless and love our neighbor. A victim is focused inwardly, while a filled-up soul, rich on Jesus' love, feels compelled to share that love.

Joy is a matter of position and perspective and Jesus has changed both for us. Through the Cross and the torn tabernacle curtain He's given us access to himself (position) and made us spiritually alive (perspective).

Take your child into your arms, or your own harried soul, and pray:

Dear Heavenly Father,
I thank you for salvation and for your ever-present Spirit, always ready to comfort us in our afflictions. Help us choose joy this day, counting our blessings rather than our afflictions. Help us to sit at your feet and have our joy renewed. Thank you for your presence and love and your gentle rebukes. You never give up on us and we are so grateful!

In Jesus' name, Amen.

Philippians 4:4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice


3 comments: said...

This is a particularly poignant post as we approach Easter. I think of the time when our dear Jesus was praying in the garden, when He said to His friends, "My soul is very sad and deeply grieved, so that I am almost dying of sorrow. Stay here and keep awake and keep watch with Me." (Matt 26:38, Amp) and then: '...going a little farther, He threw Himself upon the ground on His face and prayed saying, "My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass away from Me; nevertheless, not what I will [not what I desire], but as You will and desire."' (Matt 26:39, Amp)
I think we can see that it was and is ok to feel sadness and sorrow over our situation. The test - if that is the right word - is in what we do with our sorrow. Do we become bitter and resentful or do we pray 'Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done'?
Having said that, to feel sorry for ourselves sometimes is human. We kind of have to learn how to pray through it. We have to learn how to 'give it to God' even when we do feel self-pity and bitterness. I always try to hand these things over to Him, which does help. I can be honest and say, "God, I just feel angry today." God loves us with all our flaws and sorrows. The broken places are where His light shines through. But it's not easy!

Christine said...

Oh, yes. This is so human! My son is fighting so hard and is miserable so much of the time. He is bitter at times for sure and lashes out. I have to pray and counsel him toward Jesus and away from bitterness but things are complicated because sin plays so much a part of his scrupulosity OCD. I have to be careful using the world sin and let the Holy Spirit use it instead. He knows theology well enough to know solid truth but the ocd can be so powerful. He is even confused about what thoughts are from God and what is from the OCD. We're all in a living hell until he improves. Going to the doctor today to request a different med. Prozac stopped working after his concussion last August. Could be a coincidence, this worsening, but I don't think so.

Depression is something we can't talk ourselves out of and God knows when it is chemically based. He loves us whatever the cause and his mercies are new every day! To be patient in affliction is one of the hardest things God asks of us, I believe.

Bless you this week and Happy Easter too, Sandy. said...

Poor boy. Will pray x