AT one time or another, most of us have experienced the debilitating effects of self-pity, especially when we think of ourselves as victims of circumstances beyond our control. But entertaining such negative thoughts keeps us from adopting more uplifting and healing ones. Self-pity, then, actually contributes to suffering! And did you ever think about how unattractive self-pity can be to those around us?
I once studied acting with a teacher who taught that self-pity was the one emotion we should never try to portray on stage. That is, as actors we weren't to think self-pity, but should let the words and action of the play give the effect of some one experiencing it. Otherwise, he cautioned, the audience would be so repulsed that they might leave the theater! But in our lives, doesn't it seem as though we want to find an audience for the unhappy ``character we're playing? I've certainly caught myself wall owing in self-pity more times than I care to admit.
When I'm turning, through prayer, to the laws of God for healing, I often pull myself up short by asking, ``Do I want sympathy or do I want a healing?" And then I can get on with praying for healing on the sure foundation of my understanding that perfect God, good, creates man--my true selfhood--perfect, in His image. Healing has always come when I've been able to abandon the false sense of myself as a sick and unhappy mortal who needs pitying.
One dictionary defines self-pity as ``a self-indulgent lingering on one's own sorrows or misfortunes." Whatever we are mentally lingering on affects the condition of our health and happiness. Self-pity stems from riveting our attention on a sense of self other than the image of God. Without this support, the self-pity must disappear, letting our natural spiritual joy come to light. So how much better to linger on a higher, truer concept of the perfect, God-created self described in the Bible.
Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered and founded the Science of Christianity, writes of the permanence of God's creation in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures. Speaking of God as divine Love, she points out: ``This is the doctrine of Christian Science: that divine Love cannot be deprived of its manifestation, or object; that joy cannot be turned into sorrow, for sorrow is not the master of joy; that good can never produce evil; that matter can never produce mind nor life result in death."
The book of John in the New Testament tells of a man who had been ill for thirty-eight years. It would have been easy to feel helpless and hopeless--to have a massive case of self-pity after all that time. For so long he had lain by a pool, unable to reach what he thought were its healing waters because he had no one to put him in the pool when he believed it had curative powers. When Christ Jesus saw him he asked the man, ``Wilt thou be made whole?" He replied, ``Sir, I have no man, when the water is tr oubled, to put me into the pool: but while I am coming, another steppeth down before me."
But Jesus wasn't taken in by the pitiful scene. He could say with confidence, ``Rise, take up thy bed, and walk." He didn't offer to carry the man's bedding for him or help him to his house. Wasn't he telling the man that he didn't have to feel sorry for himself--or helpless or alone--for at that very moment he was the likeness, the very image, of a perfect God, pure and perfect like his creator. And this correct view healed him instantly.
Through prayer we can resist those suggestions of ``poor me and use our God-given ability to understand God and His child--our genuine identity. We certainly don't want our audience of family and friends physically or mentally to walk out on us in the middle of any lamentations!