There were two families that we knew that were affected by infidelity. I've told him that it's important for me to always keep my guard up, because no matter how strong and faithful I think I am to my wife, I don't want to be around the wrong people who could influence me to make bad decisions.
Then he mentions, "You also don't want to wallow in self-pity."
I never thought about wallowing in self-pity. We usually make bad decisions when we are feeling down about ourselves. We think we're no good or we get frustrated because we can't get something right. So we go into self-pity mode and engage in destructive behavior.
- My wife thinks I'm not good enough. Let me sleep with a hooker.
- I can't seem to lose this weight. Where's my cookies and ice cream!
- No one wants to hire me. I'll be a prostitute.
- I'm poor. Let me go rob somebody.
- My school grades are bad. Let me drop out of school.
One time, I had the kindergarteners play soccer. One of the girls fell and busted her upper lip. Did she cry? Of course she did. But instead of being worried and shedding tears for her, I actually barked at her!
"You need to shake that off and help your teammate!" I barked. None of the other kids showed her any sympathy, because I told them not to. The other kids were playing, but this girl just walked around crying.
The tough coach I was, I still kept barking at her. "Stop crying and help your teammate!"
Man, I'm brutal! This girl was only five or six years old!
Then one of the other kids, a five-year-old girl, shouted to her, "You can't worry about your lip! Focus on the ball!"
Eventually, the injured girl got back to playing the game.
Why in the world was I so harsh on her? Well, because I've learned as a father and as a teacher that sympathy fuels the tears. When the child gets into self-pity mode, that child would sit and spend forever crying. For me, this would teach the child that it's okay to wallow in self-pity and that it's okay to ask for other kids to stop what they are doing to feel sorry for you.
But the kids at the school know that Mr. Jones don't like the self-pity game, so when one kid gets some minor injury, I would hear the other kids say, "Shake it off!" or "Suck it up!" And the kids who did get hurt won't even dare cry. They would say, "Look, Mr. Jones, I got hurt but I'm going to shake it off!"
It truly takes tough love to show such a cold heart to the school kids and even to my own kids. But the lesson they've learned is to not let the pain stop you.
You see, when you wallow in self-pity, you stop in your tracks. You fuel your own tears by thinking about what a bad situation you're in. The more negative thoughts come to your mind, the deeper you sink in your own sorrows until eventually you cease to thrive.
Once you cease to thrive, you would gravitate to unhealthy behaviors that could hurt you AND those that you love.
This is why you cannot engage in self-pity. Think about self-pity as quicksand. The more you move in it, the deeper you sink. With quicksand, you only sink so much until you stop sinking. Simply, your legs just get stuck, and if you don't get yourself out of that quicksand, you would simply die of starvation.
The quicksand in itself doesn't kill you. It just traps your legs, and you would just die for lack of food and water.
Self-pity is the same. While self-pity in itself won't kill you, it will trap you so that other things would kill you.
Thinking poorly of yourself does no good. And think about it: why should you think poorly of yourself anyway?
- Because you're fat?
- Because you're skinny as a tooth pick?
- Because you're old?
- Because you're young?
- Because you suck in school?
- Because you can't get a good job?
- Because you have a disability?
- Because other people think poorly of you?
If there is something about yourself that you don't like, then change it. And if you can't, focus on more important things than on yourself.
Listen, life doesn't care how you feel about yourself. It wants to know how are you going to contribute to the world.
- Your team doesn't care about your marriage problems. It wants to know how you could help them win the game.
- Your company doesn't care about how fat or skinny you are. It wants to know how you could help it make money.
- Your landlord doesn't care that you work at some minimal wage job. He or she wants to know if you could pay your dang rent on time.
- Your bank doesn't care what you do to your car that you bought on a loan. It wants to know that they are going to get a check in a mail from you every month until that car is paid off.
You see, no one cares about your situation -- as harsh as that sounds. So why should you? Why should you wallow in self-pity when no one else seems to be concerned about how you feel about yourself?
This is why I was so harsh on that little girl. That little girl still liked having me as a P.E. teacher and gave me hugs. But she knows that Mr. Jones is trying to make her tougher so that she could focus on something bigger than herself. When playing a game, she needs to focus on her team, not on her lip...or scrapped knee...or someone calling her a bad name.
If you think yourself as weak and sorry, then that is what you would be. But if you think yourself as strong and gutsy, then that is what you would be. Self-pity keeps you down. Don't engage in it. Look for ways to improve yourself, not to bring yourself down.
Nobody is perfect. You WILL screw up as long as you live. But it's not about if you will screw up. The question is are you going to let that screw up keep you down.