the sorrowing soul

Is there any emotion more reviled in our culture than self-pity? We consider it noble to take pity on others, and we are encouraged to have sympathy or sorrow for the suffering and misfortune of our fellow man. But we must not extend that goodness to ourselves.

And yet, if you can't have sympathy for yourself, then what kind of a friend can you be to yourself? Infact, won't you become a kind of self-enemy? After all, if someone else was pitiless in the face of your pain, wouldn't you consider them cruel, callous, and certainly not a good friend?

I don't know how we can endure the trials of life without our own friendship. There is no other person who will accompany us for every event, every emotion, of all our days. We must rely on ourselves to be strong, kind, supportive, merciful, and fair to ourselves. If this fails - if we are broken by shame, and can find no pity for ourselves - we may become utterly forlorn, and never truly heal from suffering.

Perhaps we tell people not to feel self-pity because there is a risk we will be called upon to help them, lend our strength to them, and try to draw them back into their own strength. Perhaps we want them to take on the responsibility of that work entirely for themselves - to save themselves, so that we are put to no effort and are not overly disturbed by their emotions.

I feel though that, when a woman (or man or child) is sorrowing, they might well take pity on themselves. Sympathise with themselves. I want them to know that their pain matters, and they have a right to feel it, grieve it - to acknowledge their wounding, so they can gently bandage their soul and soothe their inner skins.

They have a right to be overcome, and have whatever time they need to recover.

The beautifully tender art is by Rebecca Clark.


  1. This is lovely. It's something I struggle with, to be gentle with myself. Someone once told me to try to understand myself, to see more clearly. It's easier to look back at moments in my life, when I was hurting but being very hard on myself, and feeling now that I had good reason to be gentle then. It's harder to do it now, because I suppose I've learned that I should be good and strong always.

    Hope that made sense :)

  2. such lovely art
    being a good friend to ourselves is essential

  3. I have often thought it strange that self pity is so looked down upon. It seems a compassionate response to me. Sometimes I look at myself as a child and mentally reach out to hug that little girl that once was and still is deep down inside. And I don't ever feel bad for doing so, only better. xx

  4. Allowing oneself to feel sadness, grief, sorrow--the emotions of life--in the face of trials is not the same thing as self pity, which I don't think you are actually advocating.

    Self-pity is obsessive unhappiness over one's own problems. It is the sense that life has been more unfair/unkind to me than it has to others, which is the antithesis of compassion. It keeps us stuck in place, wallowing in our hurts, while setting us apart from everyone else. “I'm here for the pity party. Table of one please."

    Pity gives us the opportunity to love someone else; self-pity denies that anyone will.

  5. Nope, I'm talking about self-pity in all its awfulness. I'm talking about wallowing in our problems. Curling up in a ball and wailing. Acknowledging that life has been too unfair. Standing in the place we are. Living the misery.

    And then moving through it to strength and peace.

    I believe disallowing someone the right to wallow in their misery or even be obsessively unhappy about them is like saying there should be some limit on grief.

    I believe we don't always have to be wise, strong, capable, calm.

    Just my humble opinion, others are free to disagree :-)

  6. Hmm, I've not thought of self-pity from this perspective before. This is something I do struggle with at times, so it will be interesting to explore with new eyes. Thanks for sharing your insightful words.

  7. There have been times in my life when I have wallowed ashamedly in self-pity. I look back on them as terribly dark periods and at the time I hated myself for my weakness. For me it was a kindness to myself to make the move to eventually lift myself out of it; I don't think anyone else can do that for you. Yet, looking back I think you are right. Maybe those awful harrowing times were part of the healing process and necessary in their own way - a kind of death process to whatever I was grieving about. It was only by being kind to myself and accepting how I felt that I could move on. Those times can change a person for the better too if we let them. I think they make a heart softer and more open - more sympathetic to the pain and suffering of others.
    Thank you for your thoughtful words, Sarah :)