Depression and Self-Pity

To a person who has never experienced depression, it would probably be easy to say, “Why don’t you just get over it?” But to the one suffering from it, things don’t look that easy.

During the years that I struggled with depression, I felt like my heart was bleeding. As much as my husband and friends tried to help, they eventually had to tend to other things, leaving me feeling abandoned in my pain. If I were to paint a picture of what that felt like, it was like I had been in a horrible car accident and was bleeding profusely. My friends and family would come and go, but no one was able to extricate me from the car and get me into an ICU. What others could not see is that I had been in an accident of sorts, but it wasn’t physical. It was emotional and spiritual. It sounded like such a comfort to me to die and go to heaven where the pain would be over.

To the person suffering from depression, telling them to “just get over it” sounds just as cruel as telling the person who has just been in a car accident who is bleeding profusely to “just get over it.” He or she is sometimes “navel gazing” because he or she is just trying to figure out how to survive.

As I write this post, I write it from the position of one who has been there. I also write it as one who has a difficult message; one that is hard, but points to the path that led to my healing, and I hope could lead to healing for others. It can be a LONG and Difficult journey to recover from depression, and it is often tempting to turn back. Change can be hard, especially when you feel like coping with day to day life is overwhelming. It takes fighting for your healing when you feel like you have no strength left to fight. The good news is that you are not in this alone. God wants to be your strength. One of the most powerful prayers we can pray is, “God, please give me your strength, because my own is gone.”

Okay, are you ready for Troubleshooting Depression Tip #2? Examine yourself to see if you have given in to self-pity.  To be honest, I had never given self-pity much thought. I remember the first time I read one author’s perspective of it:  “Wow, that’s harsh,” This was my initial reaction to Oswald Chambers’ description of self-pity… “No sin is worse than the sin of self-pity, because it obliterates God and puts self-interest upon the throne”…then I realized where self-pity had led in my life…to a place where I found myself despairing, asking God to take my life.

In his book entitled, Wrestling Prayer, Eric Ludy states, “Self-pity has destroyed more men and women than maybe any other vice. Self-pity appears smallish, weak, and almost cute. It appears to be some harmless luxury of the human soul in hard times – but for all its seeming neutrality, self-pity has proven the conqueror of kings, princes, prophets, and mighty men throughout the ages.”

Self-pity can get a foothold when we aren’t intentionally looking for things to be grateful for. We ALL have countless things to be thankful for if we take the time and energy to focus on looking for them. Instead of focusing on the thousands of things we DO have, self-pity focuses on the things we don’t have. It’s easy to think that when God told us to, “Be joyful always and give thanks in all circumstances,” that He was asking us to make some kind of sacrifice; but God was giving us a gift. Giving thanks is one step toward taking our eyes off of ourselves. It is an absolutely necessary step in overcoming depression. If we continue to focus inward, we shrink and crush ourselves with ourselves until we are consumed.

Self-pity loses its’ ability to bring anguish into our hearts when we surrender the “self” we are trying so hard to comfort to the lordship of Christ. Jesus said in Luke 9:23-24,  …“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it.” In practical terms, we do this when we take our eyes off of our own pain and focus on God through praise and thanksgiving. When we do this, we make Him, not ourselves, the center…the focus.

So, what exactly is self-pity? The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines it this way: “pity for oneself; especially:  a self-indulgent dwelling on one’s own sorrows or misfortunes.” Self-pity is so dangerous because it drowns out the fruits of the spirit from our lives. While it is a healthy practice to “unpack” the pain of our past so we can move forward, this moves into the realm of self-pity when looking back becomes excessive or when we project expectations of condolence on everyone around us. It’s crucial that our motive for looking back is healing.

They say the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, so if you have given in to self-pity, and you don’t want it to define your future, let’s take a step in the direction of casting it off. Please pray with me…

“Dear Lord, I now recognize that I have had my eyes on myself instead of on you. I have indulged in the sin of self-pity.  I no longer want to continue doing this. Please forgive me. Right now, I want to thank you for all the blessings you have given me. Please give me a heart that overflows with gratitude.  I praise you for who you are: my loving and compassionate God, my strength and the lifter of my head, the God of hope and my Prince of Peace. You are good, and your mercies endure forever. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

“Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-17

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