This phrase has been my mantra for a long time. Evangelist, Joyce Meyer, shouted these words from my TV screen one morning–jolting me out of a lackluster treadmill jaunt and into a far more lively, challenging workout: Exercising my will (and my choice) to stop feeling sorry for myself! Unaware that I was even a self-pity partier, the Spirit prodded me into the painful process of self-analysis: My deeply entrenched assumptions, attitudes, and judgments about myself and others. Mercifully, the Spirit didn’t reveal to me all of my bratty, self-serving neuroses at once—otherwise, I would’ve freaked out even more. Yep, I was a perpetual victim, alright: My husband had a lot of nerve being imperfect—not to mention my kids! And what’s up with people who didn’t think and act according to my standards?! How dare they! Gee, if only the world would just act like me, we’d surely have global peace. Yikes! I hadn’t realized how much time I’d spent in the corner eating my can of “it’s not fair” worms.
Self-pity and soliciting sympathy from others pays off (on some level), or we wouldn’t engage in these behaviors. Let’s face it: Manipulation through pity and guilt works. And justifying these attitudes about ourselves and others works too—to keep us enslaved and powerless. Scott Peck, author of The Road Less Traveled, tells us a simple solution to empowering ourselves:
We cannot solve life’s problems except by solving them. This statement may seem idiotically self-evident, yet it is seemingly beyond the comprehension of much of the human race. This is because we must accept responsibility for a problem before we can solve it. We cannot solve a problem by saying ‘It’s not my problem.’ We cannot solve a problem by hoping that someone else will solve it for us. I can solve a problem only when I say ‘This is MY problem and it’s up to me to solve it.’ But many, so many, seek to avoid the pain of their problems by saying to themselves: ‘This problem [in me] was caused by other people, or by social circumstances beyond my control, and therefore it is up to other people or society to solve this problem for me. It’s not really my personal problem'” (p. 33).
Yes, we might temporarily feel exonerated and powerful by refusing to own our problems and emotions. Denial is just plain easier…at first. But ultimately, my denial kept me stuck in the mire of powerlessness. When I realized that I could, indeed, choose my emotions, I chose to feel powerful, not pitiful. Thus, I’m even happier now—and so is my husband.