I Cry the Way that Babies Cry
I once asked a knowledgeable aquiantence how he understood the difference between self-pity and having compassion for oneself. For example, I hate it when hear myself sounding whiney and complainy, but do not have a lot of compassion for myself, so I knew there had to be a difference. His answer was, in so many words, that self-pity was a ruse of the ego which increases the sense of seperation between oneself and the rest of creation, while having compassion for oneself allows connection with the rest of the universe and more compassion for others.
Self-pity is a character flaw in myself that I am quick to recognize, and rush to judgement on, in others. Victims, or people just in a lot of pain no matter who’s at fault, make other people uncomfortable. They remind us of our ultimate lack of control in avoiding pain for ourselves, and they remind us there might be something we could have done to help them feel better, but chose not to, for a variety of excellent reasons. But there’s just about nothing I have the right to judge less than the severity and quality of another’s pain, or their motives in expressing it. Some apparent cowardly expressions of self-pity may actually be acts of protest, but overshadowed by the drama of the expression, and the intention or message gets hopelessly lost. And what if someone didn’t know they were hurting you, but would have wanted to be told (obviously, some people don’t)? So many things are an accident or unavoidable, and there isn’t even anyone to blame. But what if someone is doing just that, expressing his or her pain, and not meaning to assign blame, but maybe reaching out for support? What would be the difference between craving sympathy and cultivating support?
Sometimes it hurts so much one can’t help but cry, very loudly at that. When is documenting/expressing one’s pain, or protesting against the causes of one’s pain, the same as self-pity, and when is it only an act of expression or a morally appropriate protest?….. alas, my aquiantence is long gone and I cannot ask him.
I Loved to be Loved by Peter Gabriel.