Calvary Road Baptist Church

“THE GREAT HARM THAT IS DONE BY FEELING SORRY FOR SOMEONE” Part 5

 

     We are once again addressing this matter of feeling sorry for someone. When the person you feel sorry for is yourself it is called feeling sorry for yourself, or it is called self-pity, or it can even be defined by the medical establishment (which has no concept of the spiritual dimension of anyone’s conduct) as the mental illness called depression, clinical depression, major depressive disorder, or persistent depressive disorder.[1] This is the person who insists on hanging onto what depresses him for a long, long time. Symptoms include a change in your appetite (not eating enough or overeating), sleeping too much or too little, lack of energy, or fatigue, low self-esteem, trouble concentrating or making decisions, and feeling hopeless.[2] Excuse me, but an appetite that results in eating too much or too little, a routine that results in sleeping too much or too little, having a low level of energy or fatigue, and difficulty concentrating and making decisions is conduct. Not denying that it may be affected by physical issues, but it is still conduct, pure and simple. Behavior. Having a low self-esteem, on the other hand, is a spiritual matter. Feeling hopeless is a spiritual matter. Thus, we have the confluence of physical and spiritual issues.

Where this topic becomes increasingly bizarre is when you read what the so-called psychiatric experts tell us are the causes of this “mental illness” that is also known as major depressive disorder (MDD), clinical depression, major depression, unipolar depression, or unipolar disorder; or recurrent depression.[3] Unipolar as opposed to bipolar? Did you know “there is no such thing as a consistent chemical imbalance or a neuroanatomical abnormality among the psychiatric diagnoses”?[4] As well, “Blood tests and brain scans are not even used in making a psychiatric diagnosis.”[5] I quote:

 

The understanding of the nature and causes of depression has evolved over the centuries, though this understanding is incomplete and has left many aspects of depression as the subject of discussion and research. Proposed causes include psychological, psycho-social, hereditary, evolutionary and biological factors. Long-term substance abuse may cause or worsen depressive symptoms. Psychological treatments are based on theories of personality, interpersonal communication, and learning. Most biological theories focus on the monoamine chemicals serotonin, norepinephrine and dopamine, which are naturally present in the brain and assist communication between nerve cells. This cluster of symptoms (syndrome) was named, described and classified as one of the mood disorders in the 1980 edition of the American Psychiatric Association’s diagnostic manual.[6]

 

Would you like to know what is meant by what I just read to you about depression, which is what feeling sorry for yourself and self-pity is frequently called by the medical community, and just about everyone else? What is meant is that the so-called experts have theories, opinions, and descriptions of symptoms, but their constantly changing explanations for what causes this malady means they have no real idea what causes it. Having a medical degree, being empowered to write prescriptions, and wearing a white smock while you spout psychological jargon does not mean you have a handle on the spiritual issues which give rise to feeling sorry for someone, or feeling sorry for yourself. The sad fact is that “The suicide rate is significantly higher among psychiatrists than among those of any of the other sixteen specialty groups listed by the American Medical Association as a part of the medical profession.”[7] Yet this profession that shows no demonstrable expertise in handling their own so-called psychiatric issues has succeeded in convincing the American public that they and only they are qualified to speak with authority on matters related to depression, which is only one facet of feeling sorry for yourself, which is another way of describing self-pity. Perhaps this is why “In an article in This Week Magazine . . . entitled ‘Farewell to Freud,’ Leslie Lieber concludes:

 

Once bright with promise, psychoanalysis today seems hardly worth the millions we are lavishing on it each year. In the U. S. there are approximately 18,000 psychiatrists - as against about 484 in France and 1,000 in Italy.”[8]

 

Please do not misconstrue my comments. I am not opposed to either the field of psychology or psychiatry. Both have an important place in society. However, neither field is either trained or qualified to diagnose remedies for spiritual problems, or to confront and correct someone who is bound by the damning and destructive chains of sinful behavior. Once physical causes for such things as morbid obesity or not eating enough, a sleep disorder or chronic fatigue, or even feelings of low self-esteem, trouble concentrating or making decisions, and feeling hopeless have been eliminated by a thorough physical examination performed by a doctor . . . then the likelihood that the symptoms are the result of an unresolved spiritual matter must be considered as likely.[9] Then the issue of sin must be addressed.[10]

We began this series by looking at five examples of feeling sorry for yourself; Cain, Job, Elijah, Gehazi the servant of Elijah, and Lucifer. We progressed the following week to observe the relationship that exists between self-pity and the sin of pride. We noticed in the same five individuals that their obvious self-pity and feeling sorry for themselves did in each instance spring from the pride that existed in them. Of course, pride is a sin. Proverbs 16.5 reads, “Every one that is proud in heart is an abomination to the LORD: though hand join in hand, he shall not be unpunished.” We then continued in our consideration of self-pity to reflect on the matter of feeling sorry for others and how feeling sorry for others is as much fostered by pride as feeling sorry for yourself. We now come to the fifth major consideration related to self-pity,

 

THE LINK BETWEEN FEELING SORRY FOR OTHERS AND FEELING SORRY FOR YOURSELF

 

I know there are a great many people who are convinced there is no connection between feeling sorry for others and having self-pity. However, we have already established that feeling sorry for others is fostered by pride, and that feeling sorry for yourself is fostered by pride. That said, there is a great deal of resistance by some to connect feeling sorry for others to feeling sorry for yourself. This is because while perhaps admitting to feeling sorry for others, most people do not want to admit to themselves or to others that they feel sorry for themselves.

We saw that Lucifer, Cain, Job, Elijah, and Gehazi felt sorry for themselves. We saw convincing evidence that it was pride of heart that fostered their feelings of self-pity. As well, we established that pride of heart allows a sinful person to feel justified in feeling sorry for someone else. The problem, of course, is that people simply do not want to admit that they are overcome by self-pity. They do not want to admit to being guilty of this sin, or they do not want to admit that their conduct is sinful (in some way feeling justified for feeling sorry for themselves, like they have a right to feel that way after that they have gone through).

The key to properly dealing with any sin in a Christian’s life (since unsaved people are utterly incapable of properly dealing with the sins they commit) is to first confess it. Confession, such as we find in First John 1.9 (“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”), homolegeoo, has to do with agreeing with God that something is, in fact, sinful, wrong, disobedient, and worthy of punishment. Once sin is confessed it is to be forsaken. My goal throughout this series of messages has been to convince the Christian that feeling sorry for yourself, self-pity, is in all cases wrong. I am not suggesting that a guy who robs you and beats you senseless has not grievously sinned against you, but that reacting to that sinful beating by sinfully feeling sorry for yourself as a result is also wrong.

It is also hoped that those who are unsaved will see the sinfulness and enslavement that results from feelings of self-pity, and that the eventual result with be conversion to Jesus Christ, Who alone provides remedy for sins. Back to seeing the sin of self-pity as sin so that it might be confessed. Back to coming to recognize that in all cases feeling sorry for yourself (or anyone else) is utterly sinful. There are three lines of thought I would like you to consider:

First, feeling sorry for others makes way for feeling sorry for yourself. Whether you feel sorry for a puppy or the man or woman with a message written on cardboard at the freeway on ramp (“Homeless, only need a little help. God bless you.”), it is the feeling sorry for someone, or some thing, that is used by the sinful machinations of the heart in eventually justifying your own self-pity. Which came first, the chicken or the egg? We who are six day creationists know the answer to that question, though it is problematic about whether someone first felt sorry for someone else in a bad way and then later for himself, or he had enough connivance in his heart to weave a web of feeling sorry for others so he could live with himself and salve his conscience when feeling sorry for himself. Of course, self-pity is a matter of the heart because the pride that fosters it is a sin of the heart. However, it is the mind that barricades access to heart, so we need to understand more how the mind works. Turn to Second Corinthians 10.4-5, where the Apostle briefed the Corinthians concerning spiritual ministry and the way the human mind works:

 

4      (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;)

5      Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.

 

Notice that in verse 4 Paul likens the thought life to something of a fortress. In verse 5 he likens effective ministry to pulling down fortifications (which are actually imaginations and anything else in the mind that exalts itself against the knowledge of God). If it exalts itself against the knowledge of God, whatever it happens to be, what else can it ultimately be but pride? I am convinced that one way the proud heart works is that the mind justifies feeling sorry for someone else so that a person can eventually feel sorry for himself. What happens once someone’s conduct or behavior is exposed to be a proud action against God? Then it is the responsibility of the offender to humble yourself. Listen as I quickly read statements made by the Savior, written by Paul, written by James, and then written by Peter:

 

Mt 18:4        Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

Mt 23:12      And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted.

2Co 12:21   And lest, when I come again, my God will humble me among you, and that I shall bewail many which have sinned already, and have not repented of the uncleanness and fornication and lasciviousness which they have committed.

Jas 4:6        But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.

Jas 4:10      Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.

1Pe 5:5       Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.

1Pe 5:6       Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time.

 

I have over the past few weeks shown you how the conduct which shows itself to be feeling sorry for yourself, and also feeling sorry for someone else, is bound up in the heart sin of pride. We see from what I have just read that God will resist you for your pride, and that it is your responsibility to humble yourself to be in the place where God will give you grace.

Next, not assigning responsibility to others for how they feel about themselves relieves those who are themselves guilty of self-pity of being responsible for the way they feel. Allow me to restate what I said: If you feel sorry for someone (which only happens when you do not hold them responsible for their life issues), you thereby end up eventually relieving yourself of responsibility for your own life. You assign to yourself the status of victim, eventually enabling you to blame other people or circumstances for your problems. It is the classic blame shifting response we saw with Adam blaming Eve in the Garden of Eden when he said to God, “The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat.” How about the guy down on skid row? That homeless guy who lives under the freeway overpass? That poor fellow is not guilty of the sin of drunkenness, so the sentiment goes, but is afflicted with the disease of alcoholism. Really? Then explain to me why God places drunkenness into a category of immoral deeds that includes such as fornication, adultery, theft, idolatry, and extortion? Those don’t sound like diseases to me. How about the fellow who is afflicted with the disease of drug addiction? Oh, you mean the guy who knowingly violated the law again and again and again and again until he became addicted? So, you become afflicted with a disease after repeatedly violating the law? I remind you of what I brought to your attention earlier in this series:

 

Another example of sinning passed off on people as a disease, Heroin addiction: Listen to the comments related to Heroin addiction written by Anthony Daniels, MD, formerly a physician and psychiatrist practicing in the UK, Africa, and various third world countries. He is also the author of more than twenty books and was a columnist for the London Spectator, for National Review, and for the Wall Street Journal:

 

Claiming the whole basis of the supposed treatment for the supposed disease of Heroin addiction is rooted in lies and misconceptions, he writes, “. . . research has shown that most addicts spend at least 18 months taking heroin intermittently before they become addicted. Nor are they ignorant while they take it intermittently of heroin’s addictive properties. In other words, they show considerable determination in becoming addicts. It is something, for whatever reason, that they want to become. It is something they do, rather than something that happens to them.”[11]

 

I could cite further examples, but the point that I seek to make is that if you create a worldview in which others are victims and are somehow not responsible for their situations and problems, then neither are you when it comes to you. It becomes someone else’s fault, or society’s fault, or the government’s fault, or karma, or fate. I am not denying the responsibility or the roles of others in many of life’s problems, individually or collectively, just that the only person who can effectively deal with your issues is you! As well, no one else can bring your sins before God but you. And you do not do that so long as you feel sorry for yourself, because of pride.

Third, if another person’s conduct (feeling sorry for himself) is not sinful, then my own self-pity is not sinful, either. We live in an era in which the mantra most often recited is, “It’s not for me to judge.” The generation just older would usually say something like, “Judge not lest ye be judged,” as if God, or Jesus Christ, or the Bible categorically prohibited the exercise of personal judgment. Of course, such a thing is completely ridiculous in light of what God’s Word actually teaches and what the Lord Jesus Christ really said. Let me read Matthew 7.1 to you and then the wonderful comment by Adam Clarke in explaining the Lord’s words in the context of His sermon on the mount:

 

“Judge not, that ye be not judged.”

 

These exhortations are pointed against rash, harsh, and uncharitable judgments, the thinking evil, where no evil seems, and speaking of it accordingly. The Jews were highly criminal here, and yet had very excellent maxims against it . . . This is one of the most important exhortations in the whole of this excellent sermon. By a secret and criminal disposition of nature, man endeavours to elevate himself above others, and, to do it more effectually, depresses them. His jealous and envious heart wishes that there may be no good quality found but in himself, that he alone may be esteemed. Such is the state of every unconverted man; and it is from this criminal disposition, that evil surmises, rash judgments, precipitate decisions, and all other unjust procedures against our neighbour, flow.[12]

 

So you see, the Lord Jesus Christ was not directing His listeners to suspend all judgment. Now let me read the Apostle Paul’s oft misunderstood comment about judging in First Corinthians 4.3:

 

“But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged of you, or of man’s judgment: yea, I judge not mine own self.”

 

In context it must be understood that Paul’s remarks are severely limited to the matter of pronouncing judgment on another person’s ministry and motives, which no individual has enough information to properly accomplish and which no Christian has the right to attempt since it usurps Christ’s role as every Christian’s judge. Thus, not only does God’s Word not forbid Christians from judging (since these passages only forbid judging wrongly), but there are a number of passages that reveal to us that God demands that we exercise judgment of wrongdoing: In Matthew 18.15-19 our Lord not only directs individuals to exercise judgment in matters of wrongdoing, but also directs entire congregations to make certain determinations in cases of wrongdoing. If Christians are not supposed to judge sinful behavior they have observed, how does it come to be that the Apostle Paul rebuked the Corinthian congregation for not exercising judgment when sin was committed by an unrepentant church member and they did nothing about it, First Corinthians 5.1-6? As well, consider Galatians 6.1, which reads,

 

“Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.”

 

This verse absolutely demands that a Christian exercise judgment, so as to discern between a mistake he observes another Christian making or a sin he sees another Christian committing, and doing what is wise and prudent in ministering to that brother in Christ. It is not that any Christian decides what is right or what is wrong. That is not what is meant by judging. God decides what is right and what is wrong, with the Christian only recognizing sinful behavior when he sees it committed by others or by himself. Thus, it is the sin of disagreeing with God’s judgment to observe someone engaged in self-pity to not recognize that God has already pronounced His judgment of that conduct and attitude. It is wrong, and the person who is wrong and angrily denounces you by saying, “You have no right to judge me,” is only partly right. You see, God does have the right to judge us all, and we only agree or disagree with God. This reminds me of a cultural phenomenon I first observed as an unsaved young man who had lived in the central United States, in the Southeast, and in the Pacific Northwest before finally settling in Los Angeles. Within a few weeks of my arrival I noticed something I had never seen before, and I called it “the Southern California Covenant.” It was an unwritten social agreement by virtually everyone living here in which folks on a subconscious level agreed to say nothing and make no judgment about what another says or does so long as others say and make no judgment about anything you might say or do. While that approach may seem like a good idea, it is the basis for social anarchy and the complete annihilation of a society. My friends, God wants His people to recognize sinful conduct in the lives of others, as well as in our own lives. He is opposed to the notion of no one assessing the conduct or misconduct of others as if it is none of our business. When the Lord Jesus Christ spoke of His own being the salt of the earth and the light of the world (Matthew 5.13-14), He was calling attention to the role of believers in speaking up for what is right, speaking against what is wrong, and identifying to those without discernment and judgment what those things are. That would certainly include such conduct as self-pity seen in the conduct of others as well as in our own lives.

 

May I say at this point that if you come away from this message with the notion that anything I have said sanctions intrusive or condemning behavior toward other people then you have misread my intentions to communicate correct but compassionate and wise conduct toward others. I would never consider approaching a homeless man and indict him for feeling sorry for himself. I would never intentionally intrude into another’s affairs. Unless I felt a relationship existed between the two of us that made a comment appropriate and acceptable as a means of ministry and help I would say nothing, or I would first ask for permission to speak. This series of messages is intended as a presentation of very practical truth for Christians, primarily for Christians who are members of this church, which members honor me by allowing them to serve as pastor and teacher. It is my scripturally authorized ministry to use God’s Word to “reprove, rebuke, exhort,” Second Timothy 4.2.

When the Holy Spirit deals with someone who is lost and without hope He typically regenerates a person who carries a great deal of baggage into his new Christian life. That sinner come to Christ has issues that need resolution over time following his conversion to Christ. It is sometimes the case that individual has formed the habit of feeling sorry for himself, not infrequently a habit picked up from mom and dad. It is a bad habit, a sinful habit, a habit that coexists with and is promoted by pride, but a sinful practice that Christ delivers His own from all the time. Why would a Christian want to be delivered from the sin of feeling sorry for himself? Because it hurts him. Because it damages his testimony and effectiveness as a Christian. Because it cripples his children’s character. And because feeling sorry for yourself, self-pity is actually and ultimately blaming God for your situation.

Lord willing, our consideration next Sunday morning will be the spiritual concept of compassion and empathy as opposed to the sinful practice of feeling sorry and sympathy.



[2] Ibid.

[4] Edward T. Welch, Blame It On The Brain? Distinguishing Chemical Imbalances, Brain Disorders, and Disobedience, Phillipsburg, New Jersey: P & R Publishing, 1998), page 106.

[5] Ibid.

[6] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Major_depressive_disorder 10/17/14

[7] See footnote Jay E. Adams, Competent To Counsel: Introduction To Nouthetic Counseling, (Grand Rapids, MI: Ministry Resources Library, 1970), page 21.

[8] Adams, Competent To Counsel, page 2.

[9] Complex issues are sometimes the consequence of real physical issues as well as sinful conduct that must be dealt with by a physician in cooperation with scriptural guidance by a minister of the gospel.

[10] Psalm 32.3-4; 51.7-12; James 5.14-16

[11] Anthony Daniels, The Worldview That Makes The Underclass, “Imprimis: A Publication of Hillsdale College,” May/June 2014, Volume 43, Number 5/6, page 4.

[12] Adam Clarke, Clarke’s Commentary, Vol V, (New York: Abingdon Press), page 94.


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pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org