By Fr. ROY CIMAGALA
WE have been warned
amply in the Gospel about this anomaly. The story of the master who
came home and expected his servant to serve him even if the servant
was working the whole day, had the following conclusion that drives
home the point –
“When you have done
all you have been commanded to do, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants.
We have done no more than what we ought to do.’” (Lk 17,10)
We should be repeating
these lines often to keep us from playing into the hands of self-pity!
Truth is our tendency
to fall into self-pity because of reasons like tiredness, big and
heavy load of work, persistent problems and miseries personal and
otherwise, etc., is quite deep and pronounced. We need to be very
aware of this weakness and do all to avoid succumbing into it.
Self-pity comes about
when we make ourselves, not God and the others in God, as the ultimate
arbiter of what we are supposed to do. It’s this basic mistake that
curtails and truncates our sense of duty.
With it, our knowledge
of our duties can easily be held hostage by our personal weaknesses,
without mentioning the other consequences of our sins that can greatly
impair it. It becomes shallow, narrow-minded and Pavlovian in its
We would not know the
real reasons for our actions and obligations. We become prone to
improper motives that ultimately zero in on ourselves – our advantage,
comfort, pride and vanity, etc.
Of course, we can also
go to the other extreme, as in exaggerating our capabilities to the
point that we can think we have no limits in our powers. Many
politicians have this kind of sickness. They can be so soaked with
ambition that they can fail to acknowledge their limitations. But this
is another story.
Self-pity is a more
common disease, especially when in a poor society beset with all sorts
of problems, like ours and many others, there is also inadequate and
improper human and Christian formation.
Situations like this
can make people’s attitude towards their problems and difficulties to
become very negative, steeped in easy discouragement, despair, sadness
and depression, finding no value in them.
Self-pity can also be
a cover for laziness, complacency, envy, greed, self-centeredness, and
a number of psychological aberrations like low self-esteem, etc. It
can also trigger a slippery slope toward graver disorders like
As Shakespeare would
say, “Misery acquaints a man with strange bedfellows.” St. Josemaria
Escriva used to call sadness the ally of the enemy, the devil.
people from others, leading them to build their own worlds and
hampering their capacity to work with others in solidarity. It shrinks
their sense of the common good. It detaches them from reality. One can
be in a crowd, yet he would still feel lonely.
It simply lends
credence to the poetic insight, “Laugh, and the world laughs with you.
Weep, and you weep alone.”
We should develop the
knack to detect the beginnings of self-pity in ourselves and in
others. Better still, we should do all to protect ourselves from it,
by developing the proper attitudes and virtues.
First, we should
always trust in God and enliven our relation with him. This can always
be done, and in fact should be done, since this is fundamental.
Without this, other human resources and measures, no matter how
brilliant and impressive, will just come to grief.
We need to refer
everything we do to God, offering it to him and trying to figure out
how it fits in God’s plan, a difficult but not impossible task. Let’s
remember that Christ gives meaning to everything in our life,
including our pains, sufferings, problems, difficulties, failures and
tragedies, and even death itself.
We have to develop the
relevant virtues: patience, fortitude, joy, prudence, optimism,
openness to anything, since in life, anything can happen to us, but
God would still be in control.
For this, we have to
be familiar with his doctrine and start to assimilate them into our
life. Our life, let’s remember, is always a life with him. It’s not
simply one by ourselves completely. It’s a participation in his, but
we need to do our part to cooperate with him.
Let’s not forget
what he said: “Come to me, all you that labor and are burdened, and I
will give you rest. Take up my yoke upon you and learn of me, because
I am meek and humble of heart, and you shall find rest to your souls.”