“THE GREAT HARM THAT IS DONE BY FEELING SORRY FOR SOMEONE” Part 1
This morning’s message is titled “The Great Harm That Is Done By Feeling Sorry For Someone.” It is the first in a series of messages built upon Biblical principles in response to several incidents I observed from time to time in which it was obvious to me that I was seeing situations that directly arose from someone feeling sorry for himself or someone feeling sorry for someone else who then felt justified in feeling sorry for himself.
Let me read something I pulled off the Internet last Tuesday when I conducted a Google search for “feeling sorry for yourself.”
Here is a life-saving fact, so welcome the healing it brings by being willing to see the truth hidden within it: There lives nothing real in our past — regardless of how disappointing or painful it may have been — that can grab us and make us its captive, anymore than dark shadows have the power to keep us from walking into the sunlight. Now, add to this fact the realization that there is never a good reason to go along with feeling bad about yourself, and you’re on your way to living in a world without self-pity. Call upon the following special self-study guides as needed. Use them to help strengthen your wish to be free of all dark self-compromising states.
1. The only thing feeling sorry for yourself changes about your life is that it makes it worse.
2. No matter how you look at it, you involve yourself with whatever you resist!
3. Being wrapped up in self-pity completely spoils any chance of being able to see new possibilities as they appear; besides, no one likes sour milk!
4. The only thing that grows from cultivating any dark seed of sorrow is more bitter fruit.
5. Feeling sorry for those who want you to feel sorry for them is like giving an alcoholic a gift certificate to a liquor store.
6. Anytime you embrace a dark inner state, you increase the size of its stake on your heart and mind.
7. Feeling sorry for yourself is a slow acting poison; it first corrupts, and then consumes the heart . . . choking it with dark and useless emotions.
8. You cannot separate the reasons you have for feeling sorry for yourself from the sorry way you feel.
9. The heart watered by tears of self-pity soon turns to stone; it is incapable of compassion.
10. Agreeing to live with sad regrets only ensures they’ll still be with you tomorrow.
I also looked up “self-pity” on Wikipedia and found this:
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
See also: Pity
Self-pity is the psychological state of mind of an individual in perceived adverse situations who has not accepted the situation and does not have the confidence nor competence to cope with it. It is characterized by a person’s belief that he or she is the victim of unfortunate circumstances or events and is therefore deserving of condolence. Self-pity is generally regarded as a negative emotion in that it does not generally help deal with adverse situations. However, in a social context, it may result in either the offering of sympathy or advice. Self-pity may be considered normal, and in certain circumstances healthy, so long as it is transitory and leads to either acceptance or a determination to change the situation.
Self-pity can be remarkably self-sustaining particularly in conjunction with depression or other conditions. However self-pity is a way of paying attention to oneself, albeit negatively; it is a means of self-soothing or self-nurturing (“I hurt so much”).
Self-pity can also be linked as an emotional response that emerges in times of stress. In dealing with self-pity and stress, the most common tendency of reaction to stress is by feeling sorry for oneself. However, self-pity will also show individual differences within an individual that can be related to certain personality characteristics. Some of these personality characteristics are self-insecurity, depression and overindulgence in their failures, hardships and losses.
Social-Learning theorists say that self-pity is a method for gaining attention, where a child received attention, support, and nurturing while being sick or hurt. The child then grows up having learned to give attention to oneself (or ask for attention from others) while in real or dramatized distress. Thus, another form of self-sustainment can be sympathy offered by others (for example, someone might use the phrase “oh, you poor thing” to comfort the person in self-pity).
Though the primary focus of self-pity is on the self and ones own emotions within, it also has a strong interpersonal component. Being an interpersonal emotion is directing the emotional feeling or response toward others with the goal of attracting attention, empathy or help. However, some who are dealing with self-pity usually look outside of themselves for the source of their problems which only leads to a downward spiral of issues. 
References: Stober, J (2003). “Self-Pity: Exploring the Links to Personality, Control Beliefs, and Anger.”, Journal of Personality 71 (2): 183–220. Doi:10.1111/1467-6494.7102004.
I have no interest whatsoever in the opinions of those who write for the Internet or someone who quoted an author to write a Wikipedia article, save only to observe that even the secular world around us seems to recognize the harm and the futility of feeling sorry for yourself, or feeling sorry for someone else. Neither do I agree with everything I have just read to you.
May I take this matter of feeling sorry for yourself a great deal farther? Crucial to raising a child with a serious physical or mental disability is knowing not to tolerate self-pity by the child. I remember an old preacher speaking many years ago about his beloved grandson diagnosed with MS when he was about two years old, and the doctor who absolutely insisted that the child never be in the company of others with MS or anyone who displayed the slightest sympathy for the child. The doctor’s reasoning was that the greatest tragedy that could ever befall that little boy was if he ever discovered the crippling effect of self-pity, feeling sorry for himself, that would result if he was ever around anyone who felt sorry for him. I never forgot that old preacher’s heartfelt testimony about that little grandson he loved so very much. It affected me. I think that was when I began to seriously think about the destructive impact of a person, of any person, for any reason, granting to himself the status of victim by feeling sorry for himself. Therefore, when I was faced with a number of incidents that could only be attributed to self-pity, feeling sorry for yourself, I felt compelled to bring the matter before you this morning.
May I provide working definitions to two words you are familiar with for the purpose of communicating my thoughts with you? The words are sympathy and empathy. I will define sympathy as feeling sorry for someone, while empathy for my purposes is being sensitive to someone’s suffering, someone’s pain, someone’s challenges. It is one thing to recognize and then to empathize with someone who struggles to walk, who suffers obvious pain, and who finds getting around quite challenging. It is quite another thing to feel that you are spiritually competent to judge the rightness or the wrongness of their predicament, which fits into my working definition of sympathy.
Some of you may be guilty of feeling sorry for your child. Others of you may feel sorry for yourself. My goal this morning is to illustrate to you by various means that you inflict harm upon yourself, or upon anyone else, when you feel sorry for that person . . . no matter the reason for your sympathy. Perhaps you feel morally superior because you judge that you are not indifferent to a loved one’s situation by your sympathy, like others who are more selfish happen to be. I hope to convince you that you are mistaken, and that your error in judgment may prove to be so serious that it may pose an obstacle to your loved one’s conversion.
Of course, I speak from the perspective of one who embraces the Bible to be absolutely true, who acknowledges God to be absolutely sovereign in His dealings with His creatures, and who bristles at the suggestion that anyone could possibly love a human being more than God loves him, or show more real and meaningful compassion toward them than God shows toward them.
Seven headings will order our considerations, that we certainly will not be able to confine to a single worship service. This will be the first of several in a series:
First, I SET BEFORE YOU SEVERAL EXAMPLES OF FEELING SORRY FOR ONESELF
Rather than seeking to actually define what feeling sorry for yourself is, what might be called self-pity, I suggest that the focus of self-pity be on some illustrations of the sad practice found in God’s Word:
First, there is the self-pity of Cain, Adam and Eve’s eldest son who murdered his own brother Abel. In Genesis chapter 4 we learn that Cain slew his brother Abel, that God subsequently confronted him about his heinous crime, and then pronounced a curse upon him for the rest of his life, consigning to him the punishment of a lifetime as a fugitive and a vagabond. So, what was Cain’s response? In Genesis 4.13 we are told “Cain said unto the LORD, My punishment is greater than I can bear.” Really? Really? You have slain your younger brother, ending his life, and yet you now feel justified in complaining about the quality of your life? Cain felt sorry for himself for the punishment God had justly determined for him for murdering his brother, claiming it was greater than he could bear. No thought of gratitude toward God for showing mercy and sparing his life. No consideration for the fact that he ended his brother’s life and that God had mercifully spared his own life. “My punishment is greater than I can bear.” What is Cain actually doing by objecting to his sentence, and claiming that it is greater than he can bear? I submit to you that Cain is criticizing God’s judgment, calling into question God’s justice, and openly challenging the goodness of God, the mercy of God, and the wisdom of God’s dealings with His creatures. Centuries later, the patriarch Abraham would acknowledge when pleading with God for those in the city of Sodom, “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” Long before it was stated, the fact that God created this universe and all that herein is, and that His creation was “very good,” implies that God is One who does right. Cain, and everyone else who feels sorry for himself (in my opinion), challenged the notion that everything God does is right.
Next, there is the self-pity of the godly patriarch Job, who was afflicted by Satan despite having done nothing wrong. We notice in Job 1.22 that, despite losing his children’s lives and his vast wealth, Job displayed not one bit of self-pity. I read Job 1.13-22:
13 And there was a day when his sons and his daughters were eating and drinking wine in their eldest brother’s house:
14 And there came a messenger unto Job, and said, The oxen were plowing, and the asses feeding beside them:
15 And the Sabeans fell upon them, and took them away; yea, they have slain the servants with the edge of the sword; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee.
16 While he was yet speaking, there came also another, and said, The fire of God is fallen from heaven, and hath burned up the sheep, and the servants, and consumed them; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee.
17 While he was yet speaking, there came also another, and said, The Chaldeans made out three bands, and fell upon the camels, and have carried them away, yea, and slain the servants with the edge of the sword; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee.
18 While he was yet speaking, there came also another, and said, Thy sons and thy daughters were eating and drinking wine in their eldest brother’s house:
19 And, behold, there came a great wind from the wilderness, and smote the four corners of the house, and it fell upon the young men, and they are dead; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee.
20 Then Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshipped,
21 And said, Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.
22 In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly.
Later on, when God permitted Satan to grievously afflict Job with boils, he still exhibited no evidence of self-pity, Job 2.10, but rebuked his wife for giving him bad advice by saying,
“What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil? In all this did not Job sin with his lips.”
However, by the third chapter of the book, when he loses the understanding of his wife and friends, Job begins to feel sorry for himself and bitterly complains:
“Let the day perish wherein I was born,” Job 3.3.
In other words, “I wish I had never been born.” The patriarch Job was a great man of God, a towering spiritual figure among men in his day. He loved God. He feared God. He worshipped God. Yet, he succumbed to the temptation to feel sorry for himself. How did his self-pity help him? How did it benefit him? On the contrary, if Job had stated that his life’s mission was to worship and bring glory to God, we should then ask was his self-pity in any way serving to help him accomplish his life’s objectives? On the contrary, by bemoaning the day of his birth he is actually calling into question both the goodness and the wisdom of God.
Third, there is the self-pity of the prophet Elijah. You remember the great man of God, Elijah. He who worked miracles, who stood up for God, and who withstood the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. What a tremendous figure he is in Old Testament history. How thrilling it was for me to stand with Sarah on Mount Carmel where Elijah had been used by God to triumph over His enemies. Yet when threatened by Jezebel, the wicked wife of King Ahab, that same prophet Elijah fled for his life, ran the entire length of the country from Mount Carmel to the southern region of Beersheba, “and he requested for himself that he might die.” Think for a moment about what he did by running away and pouting. Jezebel threatened him and he ran for his life. What a turnabout from the courage he had only recently displayed on Mount Carmel. Then, at the end of his terrified flight to save his life he requested that God kill him. Think about this pity party he threw for himself. If he had really wanted to die, rather than feel sorry for himself and run away, just stay put where Jezebel would have been glad to end his life. He had only recently stood tall for the God of Israel. He had braved the opposition of the prophets of Baal and ridiculed their false gods. Then, when threatened by that bossy and loudmouthed woman he tucked tail and ran, allowed self-pity to take the place of his fright, and then gave up as if God who showed Himself strong on Mount Carmel was no longer strong against that woman. What an affront to the name and reputation of God was the result of Elijah’s self-pity. So very sad.
Fourth, there is the case of Gehazi, the servant of the prophet Elisha. You may remember that when the prophet Elijah was taken up by God in a whirlwind after giving up and wanting his life to end his mantle was taken up by Elisha, who asked for a double portion of Elijah’s spirit. We learn in Second Kings 4 that Elisha had a servant, a man who attended to him, whose name was Gehazi. The great tragedy of Gehazi’s life came about as a result of the cleansing of the Syrian general named Naaman of leprosy by the direction of the prophet Elisha, who would not receive the great general in person but dealt with him by means of a messenger. Of course, this enraged Naaman. Nevertheless, he eventually overcame his pride and obeyed Elisha and was cleansed of his leprosy, whereupon he attempted to show his gratitude by giving Elisha a gift. Elisha refused. Naaman then began the journey back to his country. Gehazi, on the other hand, pursued the Syrian general, told a lie in order to obtain a gift from him, and then lied to Elisha when later asked about what he had done. Gehazi lived out his life a leper as punishment for what he had done. What prompted Gehazi to do what he did, to feel that he deserved silver not owed to him, and to feel justified in lying in order to obtain it and to cover up what he had done after the fact? Spurgeon rightly identifies Gehazi’s actions as being covetousness and lying. My own opinion is that the motive for Gehazi’s covetousness and lies was self-pity. He felt sorry for himself in the company of and in comparison to that man Naaman who was so very wealthy. What did Gehazi accomplish by his self-pity, except to deny by his behavior that God owns the cattle on a thousand hills and the wealth in every mine. He denied the power and provision of God. He insulted the name of God as a prayer-answering sovereign over all by seeking to secure wealth by stealth and by lies. In short, by feeling sorry for himself he impugned the name and the reputation of the God of Israel to a Syrian general.
Fifth, and the final example of self-pity we will look at is Lucifer, otherwise known to us as Satan, the Devil. He very likely was the very first being created by God, even before the creation of the physical universe. He is described in Ezekiel as being “full of wisdom,” “perfect in beauty,” “the anointed cherub,” and perfect in his ways till iniquity was found in him. We also learn that he was “in Eden the garden of God,” a location in God’s physical universe that he no doubt felt was beneath the dignity of one such as him who was so magnificent. I come to this conclusion because Lucifer’s sin involved leading a rebellion of holy angels against the rule of God in an attempt by him to elevate his station. His thoughts at that time are recorded in God’s Word, Isaiah 14.13-14:
13 For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north:
14 I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.
You may have noticed that four of Lucifer’s five “I will” statements have to do with changing his location, with elevating himself, with improving his station and place of service to God. In other words, he was very disturbed that he did not occupy a station that he thought someone of his beauty, power, intelligence, and status deserved. Is this not self-pity? What was the result of his sin of pride that displayed itself as self-pity? Satan’s self-pity was the entrance of evil into God’s perfect universe, and eventually led to the introduction of sin into the human realm when the Devil used the serpent in the Garden of Eden to tempt Eve to eat the forbidden fruit. Thus, we see that self-pity does not confine itself to the person guilty of such an exhibition of pride, but contaminates all who come into contact with it.
Imagine a combat veteran with serious wounds come home from combat. We really do not have to imagine such a thing, for there are thousands of such in military hospitals all over the country. Some have been blinded. Others are amputees. Still others have spinal cord injuries that confine them to wheelchairs. One truth that bears out in every instance of serious combat wounds is the mental struggle that must first be conquered before progress at rehabilitation can take place. The wounded warrior must find victory in his battle against self-pity. He cannot succeed so long as he allows himself to feel sorry for himself. If such is true of wounded soldiers, accident victims, injured police officers, injured firefighters, and any number of others who must deal with the lifelong effects of permanent disabilities and diseases, imagine the consequences of spiritual self-pity, where the one who is unaccused but ultimately responsible for the difficulty is held to be God, Himself?
As we reflect on the five whose self-pity we have briefly examined, it is clear that this is something that can overcome and overwhelm anyone. Lucifer is the author of sin. Cain was the wicked man who first took a human life. However, Job, Elijah, and even Gehazi were men who served God and yet were caught up in this tragic cycle of sin that results in feeling sorry for yourself.
One conclusion I want you to draw from what we have seen in God’s Word this morning? Feeling sorry for yourself, self-pity, no matter what the reason, whatever might be imagined as justification for it, is wrong. It is destructive, and it never helps or in any way advances the person guilty of it. As well, it brings harm to those who are affected by the sin, even if they are not themselves guilty of self-pity.
A second conclusion I want you to take with you this morning is that feeling sorry for yourself, self-pity, indirectly lays an accusation against God for putting you in a situation or allowing you to be in a situation that you find unpleasant. Just as Adam was deflecting responsibility for sinning by saying, “The woman whom thou gavest to be with me,” so the person engaging in self-pity is blaming God for his unpleasant circumstance and denying there is or can be any good to come of it.
Are you a believer in Jesus Christ? Are your sins forgiven, washed clean in the blood of Christ? If so, pray tell what do you have to feel sorry about? Heaven is your home. You have an inheritance awaiting you. God has pronounced that all things work together for good for you. What could you possibly feel sorry about without utterly ignoring or discounting God’s blessings in your life?
 Genesis 18.25
 1 Kings 17-18
 1 Kings 19.4
 1 Kings 18.27
 2 Kings 2.9-11
 2 Kings 5.1-11
 2 Kings 5.15-19
 2 Kings 5.20-27
 Charles H. Spurgeon, Spurgeon Devotional Commentary, (Bronson, MI: Online Publishing, Inc., 2002), email@example.com
 Ezekiel 28.12-15
 Ezekiel 28.13
 Revelation 12.4
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