I’ve a friend who can’t hold a job. He’s actually had some great jobs, but he can’t keep them. And for each job he’s lost, he has a story about how bad his boss was, what an idiot he was, and how hard he was to work with.
I’m sure my friends bosses have had some issues, but as I listened to him, I realized how hard it would be to have an employee like my friend. I mean, to have to supervise a guy who was, at the start, against you—looking for faults, looking for reasons to not be a team player.
My friend won’t take responsibility for his own issues.
He assumes he doesn’t have any. The truth is my friend is destined to fail, and continue failing, until he understands that what he really wants in life is to be a victim, and he’s looking for any opportunity to become one.
That’s a cheap way of getting attention, and my friend will never be happy until he gives it up and starts taking responsibility for his life.
My friend Josh Shipp, on the other hand is a speaker who goes around talking to large groups of teenagers.
He is, perhaps, the greatest communicator I know. Even in my thirties, I watch all the little videos he puts out at www.heyjosh.com.
Josh is an unlikely candidate to have become such a success.
He grew up in more than twenty foster families. He never knew his mother or his father. That fundamental need we all have as humans to be loved and cared for, Josh never received.
And yet he inspires millions.
I asked Josh once how he does it, how he remains so healthy. Josh said:
You either get bitter or you get better. It’s that simple. You either take what has been dealt to you and allow it to make you a better person, or you allow it to tear you down. The choice does not belong to fate, it belongs to you.
There will always be a reason to feel sorry for ourselves. And sometimes it really is appropriate to grieve something terrible that has happened in our lives. But we also have to move on, we have to set ourselves free from the trap of self pity.
If you are like me, the reason you sometimes feel sorry for yourself is because it feels good.
I know that sounds odd, but if you think about it, it really does.
When I feel sorry for myself, what I’m really saying is that I deserved better, that I am a better person than what the situation has dealt me. And if you think about it, that’s kind of an arrogant thing to say.
It would be better if our attitude was more like, man, that stinks, I didn’t get that job or that girl rejected me, better luck next time.
Or we could just laugh about it with our friends.
The trouble comes when something hard happens, and we chose to stop and milk it for attention. There’s no progress in that, and it isn’t going to get us anywhere. And it’s also annoying.
When a person goes to the gym to work out, they aren’t building up their muscles.
They are tearing them down. No kidding. When you lift weights, you are doing damage to your muscles. The reason your muscles grow, then, is because your body goes into repair the damaged muscles, and makes them bigger so the next time you lift that much weight, you wont get hurt.
So then you just lift more weights, and your body gets stronger and stronger.
It’s like that with our emotions, too. Once we experience something hard, it tears us down.It really does hurt, doesn’t it?
We screw up and embarrass ourselves or we lose a job and don’t have any money. But honestly, there is nothing bad that can happen to us that won’t return a greater blessing if we let it. We will always come out stronger.
And believe me, life is going to throw a lot of pain at you.
What self-pity does, though, is it stops us from gaining that emotional muscle. It’s almost like we can either have the blessing of a stronger character, or the immediate gratification of self pity. But not both.
People who wallow in self-pity, never grow strong in character.
What we have to do instead is ask ourselves what we can learn from the situation.
If we got rejected by the opposite sex, we have to ask ourselves why.
Is there anything we can do differently? If we got fired, we have to take ownership of whatever we did that was wrong. And if it wasn’t our fault, we have to understand that the rain falls on the good and the bad, and crops only grow out of ground that has been rained upon.
I have to check myself all the time for thoughts of self-pity.
Now I’d never consider myself somebody who feels sorry for himself. In fact I detest the idea, because I know how unattractive it is.
And yet, nearly every day, I find myself complaining about something.
And complaining is nothing but self pity.
If I complain about the flat tire on my truck, I’m really saying I’m somebody who deserves better. How arrogant of me, right? Instead, I need to get out of the truck and change the tire and move on, just dealing with the rain as it comes.
If you want to be successful some day, stop complaining. Stop feeling sorry for yourself. It’s not worth it. Take the opportunities you have to grow.