In a conversation with a friend and mentor earlier this week, I was talking about some of the frustrations of this season – the tantrums, power struggles, whining, endless picking up and cleaning up and food preparation for toddlers who on a whim decide not to eat, etc. She patiently listened, offered sympathy and the hope of one who’s been there that it won’t last forever. And then she shared a quote with me from John Piper’s “Desiring God” epilogue. A quote about self-pity and pride. The pride part is obvious, but the self-pity part caught me:
Self-pity is the belief that you should be admired because of how much you have sacrificed.
Ouch. That can sum up many of my struggles of this season. In self-pity, I am actually asking for admiration. And admiration based on my level of sacrifice (which I self-assess as much greater than what anyone else has been through). Self-pity is insidious, and it creeps into a heart unknowingly, disguised as something good – a little reward for all your hard labor, “I only want to be thanked for what I do,” “If only they would notice what I’ve given up for them!” But of course, when you are thanked and appreciated, it never feels like quite enough. It never equals your level of self-assessed sacrifice, and you’re left wanting more. More recognition, more appreciation, less need to sacrifice, more comfort, less hardship.
The good news is that I have a Savior who did not succumb to self-pity, and who went all the way in his sacrifice for me – laying down his entire life for me, dying for me. He doesn’t ask for admiration in return but for faith. A belief that I need his sacrifice because of my struggle with self-pity. A day-to-day trusting hope that turns my perceived “sacrifice” into love for him and those around me, which does not ask for admiration in return. Faith that is expressed in love; faith that empowers me to lovingly lay down my life for my friends (starting with my whining two-year-olds) – not for the purpose of earning salvation or admiration, but because I am loved like this every day.