Posted by: tucsonjefe | April 10, 2009

Gratitude cures whining

I loved my old Taunus until I saw the Pontiac.  At age 16, my dad sold me an old German made Ford called a Taunus for $100.  It had raggedy old seat covers, was re-re-re-painted chalky white, and had a three-speed shift on the column.  You had to hold it in second gear or it would pop out.  It was little bitty, but you could squeeze a lot of high school kids in it if you could stand the smell. I had a job bussing dishes for 65 cents per hour, so $100 dollars seemed like a lot of money, but it was worth it.  I had a car! I was happy until I saw Richie (not his real name) arrive on campus in his GTO.  It was a brand new ’65 and it was incredible.  Dark blue and chromed out, with glass packs that made it sound like an advancing army.  Richie was a rich kid (or at least I thought so).  His dad bought him the car.  He didn’t scrape ketchup after school.  Now, though I had known it as a younger child, the weight of the reality hit me: I was not rich. I began to get angry.  Why did the rich kid get the nice car?  Why didn’t I have parents who could buy me nice stuff?  Why did I have to work after school and bust my hump to try and get a scholarship for college?  Life, it turns out, may not be fair!  This is the first memory I have of a crippling affliction that tormented me for years: self-pity.


From working in the mental health industry and in the ministry, I have concluded that after fear and resentment, the most debilitating mental aberration is self-pity.  Allowed to run its putrid course, it saps motivation, steals joy, and eventually turns into the most unbecoming kind of bitterness.  Feeling sorry for myself prevents me from using the gifts and abilities at my command to better my condition. It steals my joy for the many blessings I do have, by getting me focused on what someone else seems to have.  Does it really matter that it appears someone else got a better deal than me? (By the way Richie lost his car when he went to prison for raping a girl who apparently didn’t understand his sexual entitlement as a GTO owner) Does it really help the situation to speculate on why God allowed my current affliction?  Equally devastating are those mental songs, ”See Virgil, you knew you were an idiot.  Why did you try?” or my personal favorite, “You know you can never have anything good.”  When I catch myself in that horrible, pitiful, plaintive frame of mind, “Why me, Lord,” I know I am in trouble, spiritually, mentally, emotionally. The answers to that question are useless.  I am really looking for someone to blame for my condition: parents, friends, “the system,” God….  Who cares!?  The real question is “What now Lord!”  Self-pity is another indicator on the dashboard of life that lets me know my gratitude level is low and I am in need of some maintenance.


Scripture Reading:  No test or temptation that comes your way is beyond the course of what others have had to face. All you need to remember is that God will never let you down; he’ll never let you be pushed past your limit; he’ll always be there to help you come through it. (1 Corinthians 10:13 MSG)


Somebody Said:  “Whining is not only graceless, but can be dangerous. It can alert a brute that a victim is in the neighborhood.” – Maya Angelou


If your own actions got you in your situation, then learn from your mistakes and go on.  Self-recrimination is just another form of self-pity.  It doesn’t matter how you got here, what matters is where you are going. It doesn’t matter what you lack, the important thing is to use what you have.  Gratitude is the antidote to the poison of self-pity.  Take a dose today.




  1. […] Virgil at Out of the Abundance of the Heart gives us “Gratitude Cures Whining,” framing his message with a personal story that many of us can relate […]

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