The Hard Truth: Self-Pity is Killing You & Your Family

Warning: transparency ahead. I pray it’s not too much.

I had become more and more prone to self-pity, resulting in less joy, more frustration and a constant feeling of being overwhelmed.

Oh I wouldn’t have called it self-pity. But the reality was that consciously or unconsciously, I blamed them–my kids or my husband for the way I felt. I took things personally: things like little kids leaving their shoes out. Doing kid things. (But it was I who was acting like a kid.)

I found it harder and harder to enjoy my day, to be a mom, and instead just felt like every day was a battle to keep calm, to maintain order, and to make it to the end. That, friend, is a miserable place to be. I had lost my joy, my mission, my vision as a woman raising a generation for Him, focusing on “all I had to do”, or how hard my job was, instead of seeing things the way they are:

I’m a mother and this is my job–messes and squabbling included–precisely where, in fact, I find the ripened opportunity for discipleship. This is raising a family and I shouldn’t be surprised at the struggles. They are a normal part of life, no matter what you’re doing.

And there’s more….

Here, in this job with its daily ups and downs, is right where God can best mold me to become more like Him. And that is something in which I can take great delight and give thanks. That is a mercy to me!

Granted, we’ve had an excruciating year (or five) with one of our children, wringing our hands over what to do, hearts breaking because it isn’t turning out quite at all how we had it pictured. God is surely refining me through it, and the only thing I’ve learned so far, is that I MUST trust in His sovereignty or I might despair. Rejoicing in suffering takes on a whole new meaning when you’re really suffering, but there’s a comfort knowing God said we can and must count it all joy there.

And then the light bulb moment…

But I was reminded at our ladies’ meeting: “self-pity is a form of pride.” Pride, one of the seven deadly sins which is an abomination to the Lord, has been at the root of this struggle in my life.

I think perhaps Satan’s greatest weapon in a mother’s life is using self-pity to destroy the work of her hands. Self-pity erodes everything good about our work. When we are wallowing in our defeats, failures and inadequacies (often exaggerated in our own minds), we are powerless, weak women merely limping through life. We can’t GIVE life to our families because we are allowing the life to be sucked out of us.

Self-pity makes all our other problems loom larger than they are, robbing us of practical approaches to solving them because we lose our vision. We are literally stuck right here and lack even the desire to see beyond today.

The solution

  1. Repent. There’s a place to give ourselves grace, but when we’ve crossed over into pity, we’re in sin–the sin of self-focused pride. We must bring it to the Lord, confess it and begin to root it out.

2. Give thanks. Gratitude, I am convinced, is the antidote to self-pity. Nancy Leigh Demoss writes, in her book, Choosing Gratitude (I HIGHLY recommend it):

“Gratitude unleashes the freedom to live content in the moment, rather than being anxious about the future or regretting the past.”

3. Take your thoughts captive. I think this is so powerful. We live in a culture (and by nature) that uses feelings as a gauge for what is right and wrong, rather than the truth of what’s actually right and wrong. There are many times in life where we have to forget how we feel, and trust in the truth of God. If we are prone to despair, we must replace those feelings with the reality of God’s sovereignty over every aspect of life, then give thanks, even in the crucible, knowing that He is working out everything for our good. I can’t tell you how much this exercise has helped me through parenting a difficult child, even while my heart breaks.

I encourage you to find your strength. Do it on your knees, and then live it on your feet. No, you aren’t doing it all right. No one is. Yes, you make mistakes. Everyone does. We’re not given the task of being perfect. We’re given the task of fighting the good fight, and sometimes, there’s blood. Do not let the enemy of your soul get the upper hand. Immerse yourself in God’s Word, commit yourself to prayer, and believe that He will fight for you (Nehemiah 4:20).

Remember that we’re not just here to get through life. We’re here to glorify God and draw others to Him. You haven’t been called because you’re so great at being a mother and wife. You’ve been called because you are His beloved, righteous because of His work, and equipped to do what you’ve been given.

Bask in His mercy, give thanks for everything, and soldier on.

For a HUGE dose of vision and just the inspiration you need to soldier on, get When Motherhood Feels Too Hard. (Take 15% off with coupon code: 15off)

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35 Responses to “The Hard Truth: Self-Pity is Killing You & Your Family”

  1. Smitti says:

    Thank you so much for your transparency! I too am currently suffering from self pity, and this was a well-timed (and gentle) wake up call. Thank you for not only pointing out what is wrong, but also what to do about it. I praise God for you! 🙂

  2. Heather says:

    This is a great wake up call to me. I have 12 blessings but i admit, sometimes it seems like all I do is fail and then i tend to take it or on everybody around me instead of remembering this is what God has called me and it is demanding but he called me to this so many years ago. I have a 22 year old who has given up on his marriage and left 2 babies behind him, my 20 year old daughter is an unwed mother and i see other clues that my 19 year old is walking a difficult road in her spritual life. All I do is blame myself which brings me into deep despair and makes we want to give up on my other kids. Not leave them, but sometimes i think how I raised my older kids and how i spent my days teaching them about God and that if you continue to see Him, He will help you. So maybe if i do things the opposite with my other children, they will turn our better. I poured myself or into them but yet, their lives are a mess. My heart breaks to say the least. I am re-evaluating how i do things and asking God for wisdom. This writing really helped me! My focus needs to change to Him instead of all my failures as a mom and my pride. My little ones need me now also and most of all, they need to know who they ate in Christ! Blessings to you and once again, thank you for your vulnerability. I needed to hear i am not alone.

  3. Michele Call says:

    Yes! Although I struggled with self pity before I had kids I think moms, and especially moms of many are especially prone to this sin. I am a missionary mom of eight and every time a kind, well meaning person tells me they don’t how I can do it, or that am an amazing example, what I am tempted to hear is that no one could possible be expected to do everything that I have to do, and “woe is me”, my life is too hard. I constantly have to work on my attitude. It is the key to continuing on for me.

  4. Shonni says:

    This was so perfect for me today. I had already realized that I was in a “poor me” place and feeling that everything had gotten to hard. I had asked the LORD to forgive me and help me to continue in the good work that He has given me to do. But I was/am still struggling for passion and purpose…I just feel so down. Yesterday I felt that the LORD was showing me that I am tired and beat completely down, and it was because I had begun to fight the wrong battles…
    Anyway, your post was very timely to me today. Thank you!

    • Shonni,

      I hope you can find needed rest–spiritually, emotionally and physically. Sometimes we have to pull back and evaluate and make sure we’re doing all we can do to keep ourselves from getting so worn.

  5. Susanne says:

    Sadly, this describes me well. I hadn’t put a name on it or really figured out how to treat it but I have felt just this way for a long time now. At this point I feel so “blah” and down that I really don’t have any motivation to try to change and grow but I pray I can make myself be obedient, repent and become a different person. Thank you for sharing.

    • Susanne–what I said to Shonni. 😉 Make sure you are physically healthy too, because that can have such a huge impact on how you feel emotionally.

    • Megan says:

      Susanne,
      I feel just the way you do! I have been trying to figure it out (on my better days), and on my many “bad” days, I’m trying to survive. I would also consider looking into whehter or not you’re physically healthy, too. I have several issues that people can’t see with their eyes, and I feel constant guilt for not being able to do things like a “good” mom should. I will pray for you as I pray for myself 🙂 I’ve been too ashamed to really share how I’ve been struggling, or at times, have despaired. You’re not alone.

    • Tamara says:

      Susanne,
      I pray God will use this difficulty to bring you closer to Himself, that you may experience His loving arms around you, carrying you through. I noticed you said that you
      “pray I can make myself be obedient, repent and become a different person.” It makes me concerned that you may be setting yourself up for disappointment, because *you* can’t make yourself be a different person. Only He can; only His Spirit can really change you. Perhaps that’s what you meant, but if not, I encourage you to think about this: not just our salvation, but also our sanctification — this making us into different, holy persons– is all His work. Let us pray that He will change us, that He will make us repent, make us obedient, make us into different people. All glory to Him! All thanks to Him, whose mercies are new every morning!

  6. Joy says:

    Thanks for the transparency, it’s refreshing and uplifting, and the practical tips are awesome

  7. Emily says:

    Thank you for this! Those first few paragraphs describe every emotion I’ve been feeling over the past 5 months (right after having my 5th child) but have been unable to put it into words. I indeed need to repent and embrace the joy of the blessings God has given me! Thank you again!! 🙂

  8. anon says:

    I just wanted to say, this post is an excellent example of balancing truth and grace. I appreciate your transparency and willingness not to gloss over something that is sin, as well as the encouragement and practical suggestions with how to deal with it. Thank you.

  9. Rebekah says:

    I so needed this today Kelly! Thank you for your continual transparency. I was getting into a funk today and wallowing in self pity as everything was going wrong I.e. my children were not listening and were being…well children. I wanted to blame my response on them and let everyone I came in contact with know it was all their fault. So thankful for Gods grace and my need for him on these days…and for women like you who speak truth to my heart! Keep it up!

  10. Megan says:

    Hi Kelly,
    So sorry to hear of your struggle. Thankfully, you are not alone. Although I have one slight objection to the solution. The first one. God’s word only tells us to repent ONCE. And that’s at the point of salvation. Our ‘sins are washed by the blood of Jesus, and we are completely free. He remembers our sin no more, we , at that point are made holy and sanctified and are sealed by the Holy Spirit. Which means that every time we stumble, we no longer need to ask God for forgiveness. Because He already has!! To ask for forgiveness from God implies that He hasn’t forgiven that sin yet, therefore you need to ask for it. And for Him to do so would mean He has to be put back up on the cross to finish His job of forgiving. When we make mistakes, in this case, pride. Don’t ask for forgiveness. Just praise God for his grace and mercy and ask Him to enable you to follow the spirits leading and not your flesh. Then go to your family and seek their forgiveness and ask for their help to keep you on track. I may of just misunderstood your wording, but to me it seemed the advice was to ask God to forgive you for your prideful attitude. Which I think is misleading because He already had before you asked and it was forgotten. Gods Holy Spirit cannot dwell in our hearts if there is any sin. He can only dwell in that which is holy. Anyway, enough of my rambling. God bless you, sending you a cyber hug. ☺️

    • D. says:

      Megan,

      There are different Greek and Hebrew meanings for the word repent. Job stated that he “repented” after questioning His Maker. This repentance did not have to do with his salvation (a change in the inner man), but it was an outward acknowledgement of sorrow (even responsibility) for his sin.

      As believers we know that Christ died once and for all to cover ALL of our sins, but this does not negate the repentant heart that a sinner-saved-by-grace will have when they have been made aware of sin. In this sense, repentance is more of a personal acknowledgement of sin (not justifying it) and a reminder that His blood has made us clean.

      And yes, I agree, that instead of staying in that place of guilt or condemnation, we respond in gratitude and praise that Christ’s death covered every sin of ours, beginning to end (and in between)!!! Blessings.

    • D-I’m glad you responded here, as I meant to and forgot!

      Megan,

      There is a “positional” repentance and “relational” repentance, much like D is describing. Our position is secure and therefore repentance is no longer necessary for that. BUT, our sin still grieves the Holy Spirit within us, and repentance keeps our relationship clear.

  11. Megan says:

    Hi Kelly,
    I have been so depressed these last few years (which, I’m finally admitting to myself), that I had stopped even bothering to read posts like this, because I’d just feel more guilt and sadness. I too wasn’t sure what to call it, and it’s been agonizing not feeling like I’ve had any power to change “me”. There was a time in my life when I was able to take my thoughts captive, and my mind was clear as to what to do when I was struggling. I had a minor health crisis a few years ago, but it’s lasted all this time, and has taken a tremendous toll on me physically and mentally. I struggle between having grace for myself, and condemning myself. I keep hoping that my health circumstances will improve, as well as my youngest being more self-sufficient, and I’ll be able to really heal my health issues, and hopefully be back in fighting condition. Until then, it’s really difficult for me not to despair, to stop myself from placing blame, to not be angry. I’ve been so confused, and in the moment, those are my usual responses. Thank you for sharing this! I’ve tried sharing bits and pieces with ladies who I trust and love, and my husband, but this is the first time I feel that someone “gets” it. And, has some sort of action plan to combat it. I knew it was self pity, and I’d remember that Jesus was the suffering servant, but not the complaining one. I don’t think I’d really named it as sin though. Hopfully that will help! Thank you! I’m printing out the 3 steps you mentioned and will have to revisit them constantly I think!

  12. Tina says:

    I echo the words of Megan! I’m so tired of fighting. I know that there was a time when I boldly encouraged others that God never gives us more than we can bear and yet there are times I don’t believe that anymore. I am actually starting to believe that He does and in the midst of the turmoil of my thoughts there is a calm assurance that He allows these circumstances so we will see our need of Him. I walk by my bookshelf loaded with parenting books, great books to encourage home school, marriage helps and all I feel is deeply overwhelmed. Where is my love to learn and apply these things in my life? I used to be so motivated, so energetic! Even in that I know that the Lord is stripping me of all self-sufficiency. And though it’s an incredibly hard place to be, every thing in me knows that it can only be good for me. But it’s exhausting to be in this battle. If it is that! Sometimes it seems I’m not getting anywhere at all. And so to all the weary mothers, let us believe that the Lord is not done with us. He has so many blessed promises in His Word for us. I certainly know that struggle of trying to see beyond the darkness around me through to the shining promises beyond and so often fail to do so! So as encouragement “Let us not grow weary in well doing for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not” Galatians 6:9!

    • Tina,

      I know how you feel. Wishing you could get back that zeal and energy. But let me assure you about something: you are RIGHT that God most definitely might give us more than we feel we can handle. The verse that is so often misquoted is this: “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can endure it”

      Paul was talking about temptation, not suffering. And you better believe when he was dragged before courts, beaten “almost to the point of death” and imprisoned, he felt he had more than He can bear.

      But, he also reminds us that “we are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.”

      Yes, we may feel overwhelmed, but we can be sure He walks with us and He is using it all for our good and His glory. That is a truth to which we can cling.

  13. Claudia says:

    (((Hugs))) Kelly…and every other hurting mama! Reading the comments, I kept thinking of “I am not alone” by Kari Jobe. “Lord You fight my every battle…I will not fear…I am not alone…You will go before me…You will never leave me.” I am praying for all of you tonight…for new mercies from your Father in the morning.

  14. Carolina Jackson says:

    When I was in my early 30s I discovered that self-pity is a sin. My pastor simply explained it to me one day when I was complaining to him about a certain negative situation in my life. He said that when we have self-pity, it is not God the one who sits in the throne of our heart, but ourselves, and that is a sin. Self-pity is bringing God out of the picture.

  15. Kim says:

    I’d like to share the photo…could you change the typo easily? (Run TO the Father)

  16. NJ says:

    Thank you Kelly! I agree 100% and I have had to repent of this sin repeatedly. Taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. Like you said, gratitude is the antidote to self-pity. I have found that self-pity blinds me to my blessings.
    On a practical note…there is a book that has really helped me. “Parenting By The Book” by John Rosemond. I earned a degree in Family and Child Development and did not realize how much false/worldly burdens I was carrying as I attempted to rear my children in the Lord.
    It has been such a blessing to me, setting me free from the lies of psychology that can add such weight to our job of mothering.
    Love and appreciate you Kelly!

  17. 6 arrows says:

    I was filled with self-pity much of last week, and could have listed off a whole bunch of reasons why I thought I was justified in feeling that way.

    Then the sermon on Sunday was on repentance, and you come with this post on Monday! God sure knew the reality check I needed. 😉

    Friends of mine and I have been studying in 2 Peter, particularly looking at chapter one, verses 5-8 lately…

    5 And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge;

    6 And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness;

    7 And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.

    8 For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

    …and it struck me today that there’s no room for self-pity in that progression of traits: diligence, faith, virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness, and charity (love).

    In fact, I think self-pity takes us to that barren, unfruitful land, where are eyes are on ourselves and not on our Lord Jesus Christ.

    Such a rich treasure we have in the Word, and how easy it is for us (me) to forget, in the midst of living in an imperfect world, these “exceeding great and precious promises” (verse four) we have in Christ.

    Thank you for the exhortation to godly living, Kelly. Shedding pride and its by-product, self-pity, is so important.

    • 6 arrows says:

      “where our eyes…” not “are eyes…”

      Yikes! My former high school forensics coach would have called me on that one! 😛

  18. AshleyB says:

    This was a timely blog post for me! My ninth child is 5 weeks old, and I find that I’m more prone to self-pity in those trying post-partum weeks. Thanks so much Kelly for the nudge back in the right direction. Your last paragraph was so encouraging. Thank you!

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