Tag Archives: graduation

When Self-Pity Sets In

It happened way back in the 9th grade but I still remember it vividly. (In that bygone era 9th grace was the end of Jr. High – Sr. High started with 10th grade. Some of you ‘young uns’ need that clarification.) The faculty asked for suggestions for a theme for the 9th grade graduation ceremonies. I dutifully submitted my entry – “The End of the Beginning.” It was from a wartime speech of Winston Churchill – “Now this is not the end; it is not even the beginning of the end; but it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.” I really liked it. Apparently someone else did as well – it was selected as the theme. I was elated!

Graduation night rolled around and there was a big banner in the gym with the theme in printed bold letters. There was a printed program bulletin with the theme on the cover. Now I was even more elated – until I realized that nowhere was credit given to me for coming up with the theme. “Well,” I consoled myself, “Someone’s probably going to say something during the ceremony.” Guess again – nothing, no how, nowhere. I was crushed. I was hurt. I was angry.

How unfair, how inconsiderate, how rude! Certainly I should have been credited or somehow duly noted. After all, if I hadn’t come through there would be no theme – or at least not one this good. I didn’t want attention – just credit (or so I told myself!) On and on it went in my mind. For some reason I didn’t really enjoy that might very much! The faculty spoiled it for me. At least that’s what I thought then.

As I look back from my wiser adult years I see and learn some things. I see, for example, a comrade in self-pity.

“Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’ “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’ (Lk. 15:25-30). (1)

I realize now that on my graduation night the older brother and I were twins. And, if I’m honest, since that night there have been many other times I’ve ‘twinned up’ with him. The malady is called self-pity. If only the older brother had gone home and joined the party! He might just have had a good night! If only he had listened to his father. The lesson? “When you’re feeling sorry for yourself, go home.”

I now know that going home, joining the party, brings to mind some important truths.

  • First, self-pity simply means I have forgotten the blessings that surround and fill my life every day. The father told his older son, “My son, you are always with me, and everything I have is yours.” When self-pity sets in I need to go back to the place of blessing, back to my Father. “When you’re feeling sorry for yourself, go home.”
  • Second, self-pity means I’ve forgotten that I already have the most important recognition and approval of all – that of my heavenly Father. In reality, His recognition is the only recognition that counts. “When you’re feeling sorry for yourself, go home.”
  • Third, self-pity means I’ve failed to remember that it’s not about me – it’s about God. Any honor in my life should always go to Him. I just need to get back home with my Father to remember this. “When you’re feeling sorry for yourself, go home.”

So from now on I try to see self-pity as a special delivery message from my Father, inviting me home. Hopefully I have enough wisdom to do so. “When you’re feeling sorry for yourself, go home.” (2)


 (1) For a lesson from the younger son in the parable see last week’s blog: When You’ve Had Enough

(2) For more on self-pity read chapter 6 of my book “When the Going Gets Tough”



Fifty Years

Last week I wrote that this week’s blog would focus on identifying and uprooting the weeds in our lives. But I ran into some interference. This past weekend I had the pure joy of participating in the 50th reunion of my high school graduating class. What a fabulous time. And it has led to many reflections.

The first is that life has changed. Things are different now than they were in 1967. For example the 1967 year end Dow Jones Industrial Average was 905. The average cost of new house was $14,250.00, average income was $7,300.00, gas cost 28-33 cents per gallon, a new car $2,750.00 and the Federal Minimum Wage increased to $1.40 an hour. And check out the average professional athlete salaries: NFL – 25,000, NBA – 20,000, and the MLB – 19, 000. Life has changed.

Then, too, when we herd the word ‘text’ we thought of a schoolbook. A Facebook meant mug shots of potential criminals. Twitter was most likely the name of a bird. A laptop was the place where kids sat to get love from grandma & grandma. And if you had a blue tooth it meant a trip to the dentist. Life has changed.

Second, as we dedicated some time to memorializing those of our classmates who have passed from this life I felt a renewed sense of gratitude for life itself.

A third reflection has to do with our shared history. The preacher, in Ecclesiastes 3 said there is a time to be born and a time to die and neither is of our own choosing. So we classmates were brought together by our date of birth and place of residence, neither of our own choosing, and yet were bound together forever. We were peers, friends, sometimes competitors. We learned together, worked together, played together, laughed together, cried together, and grew together. Friendships were forged, memories made, and bonds built. Our lives were deeply intertwined – all because the Lord of history many years ago merged our lives and histories into one. So for two nights we came together – not to complain about where or when we were born or gripe about how life has treated us, but to get reacquainted and to celebrate and share how, though apart, we have lived out our common history throughout the years and to rejoice in how far we’ve come and where we are.

The Psalmist expresses my feelings well: “Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup; you make my lot secure. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance.” (Psalm 16:5-6) Much has changed in my life over the years. Much has happened over the years – much wonderful much painful. But I am still given the gift of life. And I have a a long history not only with great family, friends and untold numbers of acquaintances, but with God. I can complain about things that have happened or about how life has treated me, or I can rejoice in how far I’ve come and where I am. I choose the latter. No matter what has happened or will happen, I have a delightful inheritance. I know who and whose I am. “I am not my own, but belong – body and soul, in life and in death – to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ. He has fully paid for all my sins with his precious blood, and has also set me free from the tyranny of the devil. He also watches over me in such a way that not a hair can fall from my head without the will of my Father in heaven: in fact, all things must work together for my salvation. Because I belong to him, Christ, by his Holy Spirit, assures me of eternal life and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for him.” (Heidelberg Catechism #1) Now that’s worth celebrating and sharing every day.