Beware of Pity Parties

Published online: Mar 19, 2020 Articles Susan Stucki
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My most memorable personal pity party took place years ago after an emergency surgery. Because this profound life altering experience pulled me out of the depths of wallowing, reflections on this particular pity party help me maintain perspective and an optimistic mindset. Of the few pity parties I ever created, this was the granddaddy of them all.

That spring morning the doctor determined I could be released after a week’s stay. I encouraged my husband to work on his never-ending to-do list at home and around the farm and I would stay and rest at the hospital until evening. 

Those are the words I spoke, but what I really meant and expected him to know I meant was, “If you really loved me, you’d be here immediately to pick me up and tell me you couldn’t stand one more second without me. You would ride here on your white steed, sweep me off my feet, carry me home, attend to my every need and rescue me from this horrible monster.” 

In addition to taking up the slack of caring for our home and family in my absence, he had been carrying a big load all week. He was shouldering the demands of our businesses, spring planting on the farm, newborn calves and the needs of our three active children besides spending time with me at the hospital. 

One part of me wanted to know that I was his No. 1 priority (which deep down, I really knew I was) and the other part of me was relieved that I had until midnight to leave. I was glad to wait awhile as I had not walked or eaten much yet and thoughts of the ride home were unnerving. Still, part of me resented the fact that he couldn’t read my mind and, like in the fairy tales, rush in to save me.

So while my husband was taking our kids to their activities, being the dad and the mom, farming, caring for the cattle and businesses, I was lying in the hospital wallowing in my self-produced personal pity party. I was absorbed in my grief, crying and questioning, “Why me? I didn’t ask for this” and on and on and on. Poor pitiful me!

Late that afternoon, there was a knock on the door. In comes Bertha, a 90-year old lady from my church, arriving at my hospital room in a wheelchair. She explained she had been trying all week to get a ride to the hospital when she learned of my situation. Here was a woman who had pins and rods in her body from injuries and breaks, no vision in one eye, could no longer drive and was dependent on others for most all her needs.  

Dressed in her best, she had finally found someone who would drive her to the hospital to cheer me on. She had made a significant unselfish sacrifice for my sake. I had no room for pity! Instantaneously, my entire attitude shifted. Unbeknownst to Bertha, her selfless visit taught me a powerful life-changing lesson. She had multiple reasons she could indulge in pity, yet she didn’t. Instead she chose to focus on service to someone else -- me! Realization of the efforts it took her, despite the difficulty, to make the trip snapped me out of that pity party so quickly my head was about to spin. Instant attitude reboot.

Pledge to pause and reboot when you are provoked. Sure, someone may have offended you. Yes, you deserve better than what happened. Certainly, you were wronged. Save yourself the precious time-wasting, energy-sucking, soul-cankering, selfish emotions with which pity parties are produced. Not only is self-pity a waste of precious life, it is an extremely destructive habit. Purposeful avoidance will save you from the bitterness of poisonous self-pity and the putrid aftertaste of self-deprecating behavior.

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