The Destructiveness of Self-Pity

[Elijah] said, “I have been very jealous for the LORD, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.

1 Kings 19:10

Self-pity is feeling sorry for oneself: a pathetic state of self-absorption. Self-pity is an individual’s own belief that they are a victim of pernicious circumstances and hostile people: “no one’s life is as hard as mine.” Christians walking in self-pity long for attention, condolences, and admiration for their “unbearable suffering.” Christians experiencing self-pity want their wounded ego to be massaged by others: see my sacrifice, see my suffering, see my heroic efforts, etc. Self-pity is smashed when we see our Savior’s sufferings and recognize that in a fallen world no one is immune from pain and disappointment.

The nature and depth of human pride are illuminated by comparing boasting with self-pity. Both are manifestations of pride. Boasting is the response of pride to success. Self-pity is the response of pride to suffering. Boasting says, “I deserve admiration because I have achieved so much.” Self-pity says, “I deserve admiration because I have sacrificed so much.” Boasting is the voice of pride in the heart of the strong. Self-pity is the voice of pride in the heart of the weak. Boasting sounds self-sufficient. Self-pity sounds self-sacrificing.

The reason self-pity does not look like pride is that it appears to be needy. But the need arises from a wounded ego, and the desire of the self-pitying is not really for others to see them as helpless, but as heroes. The need self-pity feels does not come from a sense of unworthiness, but from a sense of unrecognized worthiness. It is the response of unapplauded pride.

John Piper, Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist (Sisters, OR: Multnomah, 1996), 250.