Grief or self-pity?

Sometimes the events of life are difficult to put in perspective. There are moments of sadness, grief, and pain. It doesn’t have to be the death of a loved one, it can be anything that produces a profound sense of disappointment or loss. There are many legitimate reasons to grieve. But grief can be a very lonely and isolating experience.

I’ve been wondering lately about the line between grief and self-pity and how to know when I have crossed it.

I was a sensitive kid who grew into a sensitive adult. I wish to experience a world where everyone loves and accepts each other. Experiencing the cruelty of the world with greed, hatred, intolerance, and injustice being the things on the minds of most people has been difficult for me. This and feelings of disappointment at my perceived failures have recently caused me sadness and grief.

In a way, feelings of grief have been a part of my life as far back as I can remember. This is why I have worked toward letting go of so much past baggage. It’s in putting those things to rest that I am able to experience joy.

My familiarity with grief goes back to a childhood marked by cruelty that was complicated by an inability to understand how people (my parents) could harbor so much rage and hate that they would harm their own child. It never made any sense to me.

Whenever I witness cruelty toward people or animals it makes me sad.

This brings me to the fundamental thing that perplexes me about people in general. In my mind we are not called to do anything impossible or even monumentally difficult as human beings. We are supposed to love, forgive, and accept each other because that is what we all want for ourselves. Jesus said there are basically two commandments, Love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength; and love your neighbor as yourself. That’s it. Doing those two things fulfills the entirety of the law.

Why is it so hard for us to forgive each other and just accept our fellow humans? When we are able to do this on a grand scale, none of the other ills of the world will exist. It won’t be possible. Love dissolves evil. If we are able to develop unconditional love in ourselves individually, we contribute to the future possibility of a perfect world.

I recently figured out that while grief can be a slippery slope into self-pity, it’s really only a problem when it’s impossible to recognize goodness or have gratitude.

While I was researching the difference between grief and self-pity, I came upon some websites for people whose children have died. I’m a bit more familiar with the topic than I wish I was, but it caused me to pause and remember that right now, regardless of what I would change about my life if I could, my children, the greatest joys of my life, are happy and healthy. They feel good about themselves, they are well cared for, and they know they are loved. Not everybody can say that. I am blessed.

So I realize that what I have been feeling is grief. A momentary sadness and disappointment with my actual life compared to the expectations I had for myself. It’s normal and it doesn’t define me. I thought my career was going a certain direction, but it seems to be taking a detour. I also did not expect to find myself alone at this point in my life, especially after finding my soul mate. My version of my life story is different than I have seen it play out. It’s okay, it presents me with a question so profound that it is the very basis of my personal philosophy: Whatcha gonna do? We can’t give up just because things aren’t going the way we thought they would go. It’s the point at which this question presents itself that we decide whether to let grief turn into self-pity. The answer to that one question is our response to life.

I’m looking forward to things getting better. As they do, I hope to find the beauty in as many moments as possible.

May all creatures have peace, love, and ease of well-being. This is my true wish.

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Filed under Spirituality & Metaphysics

5 responses to “Grief or self-pity?

  1. Pingback: Finding Peace When Our Pets Pass Away | Bloggo Schloggo

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  4. John Moore

    This is excellent; there must be a fine line between grief and self-pity. When things go bad, grief is a natural God-given emotion that should not be suppressed. However, as the author says there must come a point where we must make a decision as to what we will do with our loss. I believe that continued grief can send us down the slippery slope into self-pity which can achieve nothing by itself and could very well harm us in the long run. Admittedly, it is often difficult to resist the allure of self-pity.

    • Thanks, John. I agree, the allure of self-pity can be very strong at times and I think it is only human to indulge it a little bit once in a while. As far as I can tell though, the key seems to be awareness and not mistaking self-pity for grief.

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