Disclaimer: What I describe here is an ideal. I do not claim to live this way, I only claim that it is possible, and that I'm striving to do so.
It is easy, natural really, to label myself as a victim. I am the victim of Pete's behavior. I even looked up the definition of victim and it said "one who is made to suffer." And boy have I suffered. But the trouble with feeling this way is that it takes away my power. The only power I really have. No one can make me suffer, I choose to suffer. Although I can not control the behavior of another, I DO have control over my response. And victimizing myself puts a handicap on my control, making me feel helpless and pathetic.
I am only a victim to the extent I allow myself to be influenced by the actions of others.
I am only "made to suffer" to the extent I allow myself to suffer. Sometimes it feels impossible to be uninfluenced. How could I possibly hear the confessions I've heard from Pete, and not suffer? Two weeks ago I wouldn't have thought it possible, but I've been given a gift of self-discovery and I'm realizing that I can.
I'm learning that I've always been good at self-pity, but going through this difficult time has given me the perfect justification for it. In the last few months especially, whenever I get sad I allow myself to wallow in misery because my life is hard, and I've been hurt. But these laments are hampering my recovery and hindering my search for peace.
Self-pity fosters misery and lonliness. It is the seed of bitterness. It feeds the wrong wolf.
Self-pity or victimization justifies us in mistreating others. But no matter how we've been treated, we are never justified in mistreating others. No one "deserves" to be treated poorly, and self-pity can make this difficult to see.
Self-pity is the opposite of gratitude. I would venture to say that the two can not co-exist. This has been my tool. As I've become aware of my propensity toward self-pity I've come up with a strategy for dismissing it right away. It is simply gratitude. When I my thoughts start to spiral into chaotic negative chatter "Nothing is going right... he/she was picking on me... no one understands..." I willfully and deliberately stop them and begin counting my blessings.
But ultimately I've discovered that like all other negative emotions, self-pity keeps us from feeling love and peace from God. To quote Danny, from A BLOG ABOUT LOVE:
"How can you expect to feel love, peace, and joy, when you refuse to give up the emotions of anger, fear, doubt, [self-pity] etc? When our faith is real, to the point that we willfully abandon those negative emotions as we approach God, He cannot possibly withhold peace from us...primarily because He never was withholding it in the first place. We just couldn't notice it, we weren't in tune with God.
God doesn't take away our fears and doubts and anger [and self-pity], we must choose to give them up. And in the process we make room for the peace we were after all along...the Peace that was already there."
(In case it isn't obvious, I added self-pity to his list.) I have observed this past week the happiness and peace that are available to me when I can dismiss self-pity. It is remarkable. It brings a smile to my face each time I successfully avoid the trap that has made me miserable time and again.
I feel free. I feel hopeful.