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In the PITS: Me vs. Self-Pity

February 23, 2014

Some people call it a “Pity Party” … I’ve rarely heard it called a PIT but from Miriam-Webster’s definition, a “pit” is more befitting.

From a devotional that I recently read, (Jesus Calling by Sarah Young) … she admonishes to “be on guard against the pit of self-pity.”  She suggests that when one is weary or unwell, this can be a demonic trap that indeed poses a dangerous edge that will easily crumble and cause one to fall deep into the pit.

And from experience, I know … we should all know … that it is very difficult to get out of a pit.  Much harder than simply keeping a safe distance from that edge.

AND YET … each of us is prone to visit that edge … to have moments of self-pity … as we have all fell into that trap at one time or another.

It is true that out of weariness, frustration and sometimes moments of desperation, our “critical-thinking skills” and our “discernment” are often compromised.  I’m not for certain that it has been this way for all time, but I know in my lifetime, “quick-fixes” are standard operating procedure for most human beings.  We are an impatient lot!  We want what we want when we want it and we are not good at waiting or investing for the long-haul.  So, in our “people-ness” — we strategize/connive/manipulate to make a way in our own power and limited understanding.  This rarely works out for me!  Nor does my time in the pit of self-pity profit much.

But from Merriam-Websters list of phrases to define a pit a hole, shaft or cavity … a scooped out place used for burning something … an area often sunken or depressed … a place or situation of futility, misery, degradation … a natural hollow in the surface of the body … a minute depression … an area along a racecourse used for refueling/repairing — there are “some” means for pits that could prove useful (as long as one recognizes that and does not stay too long in the pits).

For example, an “area along a racecourse used for refueling/repairing,” is a necessity in a long race (which life should be).   Sometimes, that is exactly what happens when I’m in a “self-pity pit.”  Like a race car driver, I don’t want to stay there too long or else I WILL get behind in the race.  Obviously, in this instance, one knows why they are in the pits, and the idea is to quickly get out and back on the track to finish the race. 

Another good use for a pit is the “scooped out place for burning something.”  I have a little pit in my backyard that I use for small bonfires and roasting marshmallows/wieners from time to time.  We do throw some garbage into the fire (such as paper/some wrappers or such).  However, I try not to put anything toxic on the fire because that can cause other problems.  Just the same, with a self-pity pit … burning things that are toxic might remove them from sight, but can also emit toxicity to the atmosphere and cause problems to others and to oneself … later on.  These are generally shallow pits, but still warrant caution when near them … so the fire doesn’t spread, toxic items are not burned or simply melted down into something else, or you don’t get too close to the flame.

That a pit can be a “natural hollow in the surface of a body, or a minute depression,” confirms to me that it is part of our “make-up” to have those moments of feeling sorry for ourselves when things are not going our way.  Even the most “godly” cannot escape this bent in the human perspective.  So, we should each understand when a friend or loved one is “in the pits” … and do what we can to help them get out. 

But it is the other phrase defined as an “area often sunken or depressed … a place or situation of futility, misery, degradation” that poses “grave” dangers. “WALLOWING” in such a pit of self-pity is of no use, and we can get trapped or even “buried” there.  It is suffocating.  It is debilitating. And while in that place we can look up and see “Light” … it simply seems elusive and out of reach.  In fact, the pit seems to get deeper and deeper regardless of what’s being said from those standing at the edge trying to “encourage” you out of the pit.

So yes, Sarah Young is correct.  One does need to guard herself from the pit of self-pity.  Self-pity can become a “strong-hold” that binds up the ability to think clearly and process logic and life in a positive way.  The Apostle Paul strongly urges to “take thoughts captive to bring them into the obedience of Christ,” (2 Corinthians 10:5), but he didn’t say it was easy, and from other writings we know he also struggled with edging toward the pit.

I have spent a good majority of my life “busy-ing” myself so that I don’t dwell on matters that lead me to the “edge of self-pity.”   Most days, I can be on guard … most days, I can take those thoughts captive.  But “some days” — I am weary … and I am frustrated … and I slip into those moments of desperation.  Thus, I am vulnerable to those “fiery darts” of the enemy and the passions and creativity of my own “people-ness.”  Next thing I know … I’m in the pits.

So … how does one turn a deep pit into a place for “refueling and repairing?”  The first step and most effective and efficient step that comes to my mind is from Philippians 4:8:

 “… whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy — meditate on these things.”

Now just prior to this passage in Philippians 4: 6-7, Paul writes,

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; (7) and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

Reading this causes me to pause … and ponder … about what exactly causes me to be “anxious,” and knowing that on many, many occasions I have “made my requests known to God.”   Matter of fact, the Lord and I have discussed it on numerousoccasions.  Yes … I do experience moments of peace … and yet, this same source for anxiety rears its ugly head again and then again … and there I am dealing with this “beast” that keeps causing great angst.

Seems far too cyclical to me.

But I reckon I’m not alone in this “consternation.”  For even the Apostle Paul was plagued with a “thorn in the flesh” and he said that he pleaded with the Lord three (3) times to remove it, to which the Lord replied,

“My Grace is sufficient for you, for My Strength is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

Paul obviously worked his way out of that pit and finds resolution as he tells us,

“Therefore, I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:10)

However, there is another story from the Bible that intrigues me about weaknesses, strengths and pits.  It is an obscure, brief mention of a fellow named Benaiah in 1 Chronicles 11:22.   He was one of David’s “mighty men.”  His brief mention in this account is that he “had gone down and killed a lion in the midst of a pit on a snowy day.”  Mark Batterson wrote a whole book on this minute detail pulled from King David’s story. (In A Pit With A Lion On A Snowy Day)

He chased the lion into a pit … and killed the lion therein.  When reading this book, my first question was “why?”  Was he simple or “off” in some way?  Were he and the lion being chased by something else?  Obviously, he came out of the pit because after this and other adventurous shenanigans, King David appointed him over his “guard.”

Could it be … that Benaiah had grown weary of the anxiety that the “lion” was causing … that he threw logic and caution to the wind, chased that beast for the sole purpose of “dealing with it” once and for all? 

Could it be that in order to truly become a “guard” of one’s own heart … you have to be willing to run into the pit with whatever causes you to feel weak/weary/frustrated/afraid/desperate … and like Paul indicated, in dealing with “the lion” you become strong?

Maybe … it’s not a “self-pity pit” as a “noun” in the definition, but rather more of an action verb where one is “pitted against” the beasts that threaten and hinder us from the promise of peace that is beyond the understanding of our human perspective. 

A pit … a battle … for peace.  Yes, I get it and I’m coming out ALIVE!







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