I Kings 21:1-6 (v1) And it came to pass after these things, that Naboth the Jezreelite had a vineyard, which was in Jezreel, hard by the palace of Ahab, king of Samaria.
(v2) And Ahab spake unto Naboth, saying, Give my thy vineyard, that I may have it for a garden of herbs, because it is near unto my house; and I will give thee for it a better vineyard than it. Or if it seem good to thee, I will give thee the worth of it in money.
(v3) And Naboth said to Ahab, The Lord forbid it me, that I should give the inheritance of my
fathers unto thee.
(v4) And Ahab came into his house heavy and displeased because of the word which Naboth
the Jezreelite had spoken to him; for he had said, I will not give thee the inheritance of my
fathers. And he laid him down upon his bed, and turned away his face, and would eat no bread.
(v5) But Jezebel his wife came to him and said unto him, Why is thy spirit so sad, that thou eatest no bread?
(v6) And he said unto her, Because I spake unto Naboth the Jezreelite and said unto him,
Give me thy vineyard for money, or else, if it please thee, I will give thee another vineyard
for it; and he answered, I will not give thee my vineyard.
I. WHAT IS SELF PITY?
1. Self Pity is that Rewind Button in the Memory Bank of the Mind; it Replays Over And Over Again that Hurt or Offense that Happened to You
We don’t know how much time transpired from the time Ahab returned home from trying to bargain with Naboth until he spoke to Jezebel, but he had enough time to think about what had happened. He came home, went to his bed, and refused to eat. This withdrawal to his bedroom and refusal to eat leads me to believe he was feeling sorry for himself because he did not get what he wanted.
All of us, at one time or another (probably more times that we would care to admit), have had “pity parties”. And what keeps the “party” going is that little rewind button which keeps replaying the hurt over and over in our minds. I believe this is what was going on inside Ahab’s mind; he was rejected and it offended him deeply.
2. Self Pity is an Act of Pride
Granted it is a subtle form of pride, but it is still pride. Pride is whatever contributes to self. Notice it is called self pity. When I indulge in self pity, I’m not feeling sorry for you or for anybody else. I’m feeling sorry for me. Self pity is all about what has happened to me, poor me, nobody loves me. While Ahab lay in his bed refusing to take food, he was not thinking about Nabal, how hard it must have been to maintain such a magnificent vineyard. He was only thinking of himself.
3. Self Pity is Never the Direct Result of Any Injustice or Unfair Act that May Have Been
Perpetrated Against Us
Self pity is meant to be the result of our reaction to that injustice or unfair act. Naboth’s refusal to sell or give Ahab his vineyard was not the reason for Ahab’s self pity; it was Ahab’s reaction to that refusal.
II. WHAT ARE SOME OF THE CONSEQUENCES OF DWELLING IN SELF PITY?
We should always be aware that self pity is a work of the flesh, and whenever we operate in the flesh, there will always be consequences.
I Kings 21:5 But Jezebel his wife came to him and said unto him, Why is thy spirit so sad,
that thou eatest no bread?
When Ahab was feeling sorry for himself, the first voice he heard was not of an angel, reassuring him. It was not the voice of a prophet sent by the Lord with a timely word. It was not an impression in his spirit, encouraging him to go on. The first voice he heard was that of his wife, Jezebel. And this brings us to our first point:
1. When You Dwell in Self Pity Satan Will Make Sure You Hear the Wrong Voice
While he was laying in bed, feeling sorry for himself, Jezebel was the last person Ahab needed to hear from at that time. She promised to get the vineyard of Naboth for him, and she did so by unscrupulous means. She worked behind the scenes to have this humble man falsely accused of blasphemy against God and the king. All those involved did her bidding. The end result was that this good man, who was only protecting what had been entrusted to him, was taken outside the city and stoned to death. Thus Ahab got the vineyard he wanted.
When we dwell in self pity we may hear thoughts in our minds such as, “Your wife doesn’t appreciate you; that good-looking woman at work would be right for you.” “Your husband doesn’t care about your needs; that handsome guy at the office is a very understanding person.” But you have to be careful of the thoughts you listen to. Self pity has a way of pretending to soothe your wounded spirit. It will tell you your husband or wife doesn’t really love you and leaving him or her for someone else will make you feel better, but it actually stirs up more trouble. Jezebel undoubtedly made Ahab feel better when she promised him Naboth’s vineyard, but she really caused him more trouble in the eyes of the Lord.
Genesis 25:29-34 (v29) And Jacob sod pottage, and Esau came from the field and he was
(v30) And Esau said to Jacob, Feed me, I pray thee, with that same red pottage, for I am
faint. Therefore was his name called Edom.
(v31) And Jacob said, Sell me this day thy birthright.
(v32) And Esau said, Behold, I am at the point to die, and what profit shall this birthright
do to me?
(v33) And Jacob said, Swear to me this day; and he swear unto him, and he sold his
birthright unto Jacob.
(v34) Then Jacob gave Esau bread and pottage of lentiles, and he did eat and drink, and
rose up and went his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright.
“Behold I am at the point to die.” Sometimes that “wrong voice” you hear may come from within your own spirit. Often times, when you feel sorry for yourself, you are actually entertaining a lie. Esau was not literally at the point where he was about to die; he was just really hungry. When you say, “Nobody loves me,” that’s a lie; there are a lot of people who love you. When you say, “God’s too busy to care about me,” that’s another lie; He is greatly concerned with your every need, great and small.
Was Esau feeling sorry for himself? I believe he was. If he had said something like, “I’m so hungry I could eat a camel,” that would be one thing. But self pity is all about negative thoughts. “Nobody loves me.” “God is too busy for me.” Esau’s comment was, “I am at the point to die, what good is this birthright to me?” And that brings us to our second point:
2. Dwelling in Self Pity Will Leave You in a Vulnerable State that Can Cause You
To Make Foolish Choices
Esau was feeling sorry for himself. In so doing, he had placed himself in a vulnerable position where Jacob was able to take advantage of him. He made the foolish choice to trade that which should have been priceless- his birthright- for something which would satisfy for the moment, but could never satisfy for the long term- a bowl of soup.
Since indulging in self pity is never a spiritual act, but an emotional one, it always puts us in a vulnerable state. And when your emotions are in turmoil, it lends itself to making irrational choices. Are you hungry for affection that you feel your husband or wife doesn’t give you? If you choose to feel sorry for yourself, that emotional reaction will put you in a very vulnerable and dangerous state. It is then that Satan will send along someone who seems to be understanding, one who really listens to you, who really seems to care. Are you going to be able to make the wise choice, with your emotions churning around inside you? Are you going to throw away your marriage, your self respect, your integrity for an overnight fling?
Genesis 27:35-36,41 (v35) And he said, Thy brother came with subtilty, and hath taken away
(v36) And he said, Is not he rightly named Jacob? For he hath supplanted me these two times;
he took away my birthright and, behold, now he hath taken away my blessing. And he said,
Hast thou not reserved a blessing for me?
(v41) And Esau hated Jacob because of the blessing wherewith his father blessed him, and
Esau said in his heart, The days of mourning for my father are at hand, then will I slay my
Our Scripture passage picks up right when Isaac tells Esau what Jacob had just done. To refresh our memories, Isaac, who was old and blind, was preparing to give the blessing that rightfully belonged to the firstborn, which was Esau. He sent Esau into the field to hunt for venison. Rebekah, Isaac’s wife and the mother of Esau and Jacob, overheard their conversation and conspired with Jacob to deceive his father. Jacob killed a kid of the goats and she prepared the meat in such a way as to make Isaac think it was venison. Some of the hair from the carcass was put on Jacob’s hands and on the smooth of his neck to make him pass for Esau, along with one of Esau’s good coats. When he went before his father, Isaac was fooled into thinking it was Esau. And so he gave the blessing reserved for the firstborn.
When Esau found out what had been done to him, he became very angry with Jacob. This would have been understandable if he had channeled that anger in a positive way. I say this because what his brother and mother did to him was wrong, no matter what you might think about him. Esau’s character is not on trial, at this point. This whole incident was a case of parental favoritism which pitted one brother against another and created problems which extended beyond that immediate generation.
Having said all that, while Esau was victimized, he chose the wrong response which only exacerbated the problem. His anger turned into hatred toward Jacob. And this brings us to our third point:
2. Self Pity is a Breeding Ground for Such Things as Hatred; Bitterness; Malice
An Unforgiving Heart; and Resentment
Why is self pity a breeding ground? Because it can and will create a victim’s mentality which says, “I have the right to be bitter: look what he did to me.” “I have the right to feel the way I do after what she did.” Self pity says, “Look what happened to me.” This is basically what Esau said, “Look what happened to me; Jacob has cheated me twice.” As we said earlier, self pity is that rewind button in the memory bank of the mind. The more we replay that offense or hurt, the more we will feel sorry for ourselves. And each time we rehearse it, the devil comes and adds his suggestions, thereby making the problem seem worse than it is.
Let me emphasize that what happened to Esau was not something he conjured up in his mind to make Jacob look bad. And neither was it trite and unimportant. The blessing reserved for the firstborn was indeed a big deal. What happened to him was real; the realization that his blessing had been taken away by deceit could not have been more devastating. No, I am not trying to create a groundswell of sympathy for him. The reason I have said all that was to say this: You may have been blind-sided, spiritually as well as emotionally. The hurt is very real, the wound is very deep. If it were a physical wound, it could not hurt any more. If it were a physical wound you could go to the doctor and have it taken care of. But this is a wound that cannot be seen with the eye. This is a wound that bandages and gauze and stitches and medicines can’t ease.
So when I say that feeling sorry for yourself is not the answer, it is not to sound mean and heartless. Yes, there will always be those who will say, “Oh, you big baby, stop feeling sorry for yourself.” As though the pain you are experiencing is something minor. This which you are reading is not designed to minimize your hurt as something petty, nor is it meant to ridicule you. However, I speak the truth when I say that dwelling in self pity is the worst thing you can do. It is a trap that will take you further and further down. It is a breeding ground for unforgiveness; bitterness; hatred; animosity; malice; and resentment. It will leave you with a victim’s mentality that will cause you to treat innocent people, people who love you, with scorn.
Esau dwelt in self pity and the germ of bitterness was born. And he infected succeeding generations with that germ. If you study the history of the Edomites, the descendants of Esau, you will find that they were filled with bitter hatred toward the Israelites, the descendants of Jacob. This kept on long after the two brothers had reconciled. In fact it continued long after they died. This bitterness became so intense that it spread like a cancer throughout that nation. Men of God, such as Ezekiel, Jeremiah, Obadiah, Amos, Malachi, and Isaiah prophesied its total and irreparable destruction, which came to pass. To this day Edom is a nation no more; not even its language exists. How did it all begin? It began when one man who had been cheated started feeling sorry for himself.
Why am I saying all of this? Not to give a history lesson. You can tell yourself that feeling sorry for yourself makes you feel better, but in reality you are entering a dangerous trap, not only for yourself, but also for those you love. All you who have suffered the ravages of divorce because your spouse was abusive or defiled the marital covenant possibly feel you have been victimized. And nobody is saying you haven’t been. Nobody is saying the hurt isn’t real or that it’s something trivial. Nobody is saying there is not a time to grieve. And nobody is saying that the grieving process is for a set time. There is a time for grieving, however, and a time to stop grieving and go on living. Self pity is a snare that will constantly keep you in the grieving stage.
Self pity will leave you with a victim’s mentality which says, “I have the right to be bitter against him.” “I have the right to feel resentment toward her.” Your words will reveal that bitterness and resentment. Your countenance will reveal the animosity you have whenever you have dealings with that individual, or whenever that person’s name is mentioned in your presence. Your children hear those words, and they see your countenance. Don’t think it will not have an effect on them. You can say, “That’s my problem, not theirs.” Don’t you realize that you are transferring some of your bitterness onto them? Think about it- Esau passed on his bitterness to his children, and his children passed it on to their children, and down the line until, years after he died, that bitterness was still raging.
The question you must answer is this: Do you want your children to be filled with the same kind of anger and bitterness toward their father? Dad, do you want them to share your resentment toward their mother? That is a definite likelihood if you choose to live in self pity.
Acts 3:1-2 (v1) Now Peter and John went up together into the temple at the hour of prayer,
being the ninth hour.
(v2) And a certain man lame from his mother’s womb was carried, whom they laid daily at
the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, to ask alms of them that entered into the
Please don’t get the idea that I’m suggesting this lame man sat around feeling sorry for himself. And don’t think I’m also implying that anyone who is handicapped or disabled indulges in self pity. This story, however, emphasizes a definite consequence of self pity, which is our fourth point:
3. Self Pity Will Leave You Crippled
As we read this story we are given to understand that this man could not walk at all. He could not walk; he could not run; he could not hop, skip, or jump. I don’t think he could even crawl. Someone who cannot walk cannot move forward, except with help. His handicap, his inability to move forward is, I believe, a perfect object lesson on self pity. Self pity will leave you crippled. It will leave you crippled spiritually because it will keep you from advancing forward in the Lord. It will leave you crippled emotionally because it holds you hostage in a constant state of grief and unhappiness. It will leave you crippled mentally because your thinking will not progress beyond thoughts of self.
We are told this lame man had to be carried every morning to the gate which was called Beautiful. One thing certain about self pity is that the person who lives in that state has to be “carried” by other people. What do I mean by that? I’m talking about being “carried” by other people’s faith; being “carried” by their love; being “carried” by their patience. The truth of the matter is that you’re too big to be carried around all the time. You should be at the stage in your Christian development where you are carrying others yourself.
We are also told that every morning he would ask for donations from anybody entering the temple. The person who dwells in self pity not only feels sorry for himself, but wants other people to feel sorry for him as well. It becomes a matter of, “What can you do for me?”, and “It will be your fault for what happens to me if you don’t help me.” You will notice that none of the people who may have given this man alms could make him walk. If that were the case he wouldn’t have to beg every morning. What am I saying? I’m saying that entertaining someone in their self pity is not really going to help him. What is the answer? We will discuss this in our next section.
III. HOW DO I OVERCOME SELF PITY?
Acts 3:3-8 (v3) Who seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple asked an alms.
(v4) And Peter, fastening his eyes upon him with John, said, Look on us.
(v5) And he gave heed unto them, expecting to receive something of them.
(v6) Then Peter said, Silver and gold have I none, but such as I have give I thee. In the Name
of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.
(v7) And he took him by the right hand and lifted him up, and immediately his feet and ankle
bones received strength.
(v8) And he leaping up stood, and walked, and entered with them into the temple, walking,
and leaping, and praising God.
1. Make the Choice to Rise Up in the Strength of the Lord and Walk Again
The lame man was expecting money from Peter and John. What he didn’t expect was to be told to get up and walk. But that was exactly what he needed to hear. He was challenged to make a decision: either rise up in faith and receive his miracle, or choose to remain a cripple.
You have a choice as well. You can either choose to remain in the ashes of your self pity, or you can choose to rise up in faith, in the power of the Holy Spirit, and walk again. Just as Peter did to the lame man, the Lord has reached out His hand to you. What is His hand? His hand is His Word, His promises of deliverance and restoration. Just like the lame man, if you will reach out by faith and grasp those promises with your heart you will receive the strength you need to rise up out of self pity.
Now I am not discounting the time element involved. This was the time for his miracle. Nor am I discounting the grieving process. If you have been hurt for whatever reason there is that normal period to grieve and nobody is trying to deprive you of that. However, that being said, there comes the time to stop grieving, and rise up in the power of the Lord and walk again. Walk in faith; walk in forgiveness; walk while leaning on Jesus for support. When Peter held out his hand, that was time for the lame man. God has reached out His hand to you and He is saying, “It is time; rise up and walk.”
The lame man chose to reach out by faith, and he received his miracle. He was no longer crippled. No longer did he need anybody to carry him around. No longer did he have to sit and beg for money. Where once he could not walk at all, he entered into the temple with Peter and John, walking, and leaping, and praising God. You can remain in self pity if you want to, but you are cutting yourself off from the joy God has for you. “Joy comes in the morning,” the Bible tells us. Your “morning” will come when you obey the voice of the Lord and rise up. Otherwise you’ll remain in mourning. The only thing preventing you from advancing from “mourning” to “morning” is u.
Acts 16:22-26 (v22) And the multitude rose up together against them, and the magistrates
rent off their clothes, and commanded to beat them.
(v23) And when they had laid many stripes upon them, they cast them into prison, charging
the jailor to keep them safely.
(v24) Who having received such a charge, thrust them into the inner prison, and made their
feet fast in the stocks.
(v25) And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed and sang praises unto God, and the prisoners
(v26) And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were
shaken, and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one’s bands were loosed.
2. Make the Choice to Rejoice
If there were two people who probably could have argued, “We have the right to feel sorry for ourselves,” it was Paul and Silas. They were beaten and thrown into prison and for what reason? Because the Spirit of God had used them to set a young girl free from demonic possession. She had been a profit maker for her bosses and her new freedom had ended their means of profit. And that did not set well with them at all. Therefore these two men of God were drug into the streets, beaten almost to death, and thrown into a dank, dark dungeon where vermin probably ran freely throughout. Their wounds had not been treated and the danger of infection or disease was a possibility. Their feet had been placed in stocks.
With all these things that had happened to them, there was nothing for them to do except lay down and die. Or was there? The Bible tells us in verse 25 that Paul and Silas- beaten, hurt, humiliated- prayed and sang praises to God. They made the choice to rejoice.
How about you? Have you been hurt and devastated? Not because of anything wrong you have done, but perhaps your good works have been spoken of as evil. Perhaps you have been misunderstood. And you have been wounded, not by a cat-o-nine tails, but by mean-spirited words. You have been thinking about giving up and dying inside. You want to curl up into a fetal position, figuratively speaking. You had rather withdraw yourself and descend into a dungeon of self pity, but let me urge you to make the choice to rejoice. When Paul and Silas sang praises, the Bible says that suddenly an earthquake shook the foundations of that prison and everyone that was shackled was set free.
Friend, please realize that self pity is a terrible bondage to be in, and that its foundation is pride. When you make the choice to rejoice, the Spirit of God comes as only He can do, and shakes that foundation to its knees, causing it to relinquish its hold on you. “Will it be easy to do?” you might ask. No, it will probably be the hardest thing you’ve ever done. But it will be well worth it. Wouldn’t you rather walk in freedom than to remain in bondage?
I Peter 2:21-23 (v21) For even hereunto were ye called, because Christ also suffered for us,
leaving us an example, that ye should follow in His steps.
(v22) Who did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth.
(v23) Who, when He was reviled, reviled not again; when He suffered, He threatened not, but
committed Himself to Him that judgeth righteously.
3. Make the Choice to Commit Yourself and Your Situation to God
If Paul and Silas had the right to indulge in self pity, how much more our Lord Jesus Christ? He, Who did no sin, was reviled. He, Whose mouth was not filled with guile, was cursed; was betrayed; was spat upon; was beaten; his beard plucked from His face; was hung naked on a wooden cross in the middle of the day, not only to be cruelly crucified, but to be humiliated in public. He had heard the taunts, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” He had heard the false witnesses testify against Him at His sham trial. He had experienced rejection and, much worse, separation from His Father. “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” Yet through it all, “when He was reviled, He reviled not again.” He never retaliated. “When He suffered, He threatened not again.” He never said to any of His accusers, “I’ll get even with you if it’s the last thing I do.” No, “[He] committed Himself to Him that judgeth righteously.” He never felt sorry for Himself.
The Lord Himself was a living model for how we should act when we are attacked, maligned, or falsely accused. Don’t live in self pity; if you do you will develop a persecution complex, a paranoia which will cause you to think that everybody is against you. Don’t swear vengeance on your enemies, it will only bring you to their level. Instead, commit yourself, your hurts, your disappointments, your anxieties to Him Who is faithful and willing to work all things out for your good.
To commit your problem to the Lord means that you give up your right- or what you perceive to be your right- to dwell in self pity. You give up your right to become bitter, to harbor unforgiveness. You give up your right to get even. And it is not hoping God will do something on your behalf to get even for you. It is all about dropping the whole thing in God’s lap and walking away from it. A lot of people have their own agenda when it comes handling their hurts. They have already figured out what they are going to do, which is plotting out and out revenge. They have also figured out what God is supposed to do. And when He doesn’t do what they want Him to do in the time frame they want Him to do it in, they step in and take over.
To commit your problem to the Lord means that you have taken your hands off it and thereby resist all efforts to interfere. You wait upon the Holy Spirit and seek direction from Him.
Luke 10:30-35 (v30) And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem
to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and
departed, leaving him half dead.
(v31) And by chance there came down a certain priest that way, and when he saw him, he
passed by on the other side.
(v32) And likewise, a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed
by on the other side.
(v33) But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was, and when he saw him,
he had compassion on him.
(v34) And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his
own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him.
(v35) And on the morrow, when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the
and said to him, Take care of him, and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I
will repay thee.
4. Make the Choice to Do Good for Other People
One good way to shake off the cobwebs of self pity is to do something to help others. This is beneficial because it takes our minds off ourselves. The Samaritans were a mixed breed and hated by the Jews. So how was it that this particular Samaritan took the time, effort, and money to help this stranger? Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that he had suffered his share of abuse and discrimination just because of his ancestry. Perhaps he had been ridiculed. Perhaps he had been scorned by Jews who thought him inferior to them. Perhaps he had been beaten himself at some point in his life. So why bother with this stranger? He had suffered enough. It wasn’t his problem and certainly none of his business. So why take the time?
I realize it’s hard to argue from silence, since the Bible is quiet about his past. And there are those who will claim that he never really existed, that he was only a character in a parable taught by Jesus. But real or not, he represents the individual who is labeled only because of his ethnicity or background.
Why did he take the time, effort, and money to help this stranger? I personally believe that at a crucial time in his life, he made the choice not to allow self pity to turn into bitterness, and anger, and resentment. Why do I say that? I say this because when a person lives his or her life in one continual pity party after another, it is nigh unto impossible to feel compassion for others. After all, your problem is bigger than anyone else’s and is certainly more important than anyone else’s. No one has had to undergo what you’ve gone through. Everyone else’s problems, therefore, are inconsequential; they don’t really matter to you.
And so instead of passing by, we read that he was moved with compassion and went to this stranger, bound up his wounds, put him on his own mule, or whatever animal he was riding, took him to an inn, and made sure he was properly cared for. This was something the priest was supposed to do, since he was the man of God. This was something the Levite should have done. He was a member of the priestly tribe. No, this stranger who was robbed, beaten, and left for dead was cared for by someone who had possibly, probably suffered abuse himself.
As we mentioned earlier, helping others when you are hurting, and your flesh wants to feel sorry for itself is beneficial because it takes your mind off you, your hurt, your self pity. In doing so, you take your hands off your situation and thereby give the Holy Spirit. Who is the active Agent of the Godhead, the liberty and mobility to move on your behalf.
In conclusion, have you been hurt by someone recently? Or even a long time ago? Have you fallen into that trap of self pity, thinking it would make you feel better? If so, it’s time to make some choices. Make the choice to rise up and walk; make the choice to rejoice; make the choice to commit your situation to the Lord; and make the choice to reach out and help others. These choices are not to be made flippantly and they cannot be carried out in your own strength or wisdom. It requires complete leaning upon the Lord. If you will make these choices, there is that joy which no man can take away, ready to flow forth from within.