The Sin of Self Pity: True and False Pity
2 Corinthians 7:10 ESV
“For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.”
True pity is founded on what the bible calls “godly grief,” and false pity is founded on what the bible calls “worldly grief.” (2 Corinthians 7:10) Godly grief over sin is motivated by a love for God. It’s rooted in a biblical knowledge of heart and mind that we have offended our Creator by our sin. On the contrary, worldly grief is motivated by selfish desire. It’s rooted in a fear of punishment, wounded pride and unfulfilled lusts that masquerade into the form of godly sorrow. A Godly repentance produces a sincere desire to abandon wickedness, and possess Christian fruit. Self pity repentance, (a worldly repentance) produces guilt, depression, and hopelessness, carrying no resolve to abandon sin, or to produce any fruit whatsoever.
The harsh reality of self pity repentance is that it possesses no signs of the gospel. It has zero desire to pursue holiness, it only wants to consume. On the contrary, true repentance always produces the pursuit of holiness. It may not be a perfect pursuit, but over time it will pursue truth, and produce life for those around. Mr. Pity may read good Christian literature, study the ins and outs of theology, and serve the multitudes, but biblical fruit in action is always the test of whether or not his repentance is based on pity, or genuine grief. Likewise, we may wallow in our sins, sighing and moaning to anyone willing to listen, but according to the Bible this cannot ever be the result of a godly repentance. Repentance must produce freedom; it must carry with it the love of people, which means it has no time to pity.
A good example of true pity and false pity is found in 2 Corinthians 7:10. After seeing the Corinthians had repented, the Apostle Paul commended the church by reporting that he saw the results of their godly grief. They had earnestness, which means they were pursuing righteousness. Self pity repentance produces no earnestness; its fraud is exposed in its indifference to sin, and its lack of pursuit for righteousness. The Corinthians also displayed indignation, which means they were angry over their sin, and sought to be free from it. Self pity is only angry because it has sin, and it never seeks freedom from it, even if it looks as if it does. They had fear, which means they were reverent before God due to the knowledge that He is offended by sin, and calls His people to turn away from it. Self pity fears punishment and loss of gain, not turning from sin at all, it only goes deeper into it. They had longing, which means they practiced restoration and relationship with God. Self pity has no time for longing. It only cares for selfish desire; so if being restored to God doesn’t help its cause, it isn’t interested. They had zeal, which means they wanted to defend the Word of God, and the Christian brotherhood at all cost. Self Pity’s zeal is founded in defending itself, and justifying its own sin at all cost. Finally, they had punishment, which means they were in agreement with God that sin deserves judgment. They wanted to see the justice of God come to fruition, no matter how it affected them personally. Self pity’s punishment doesn’t agree with God’s justice at all. It feels sorry for itself that it will be punished, and hates for the Lord’s discipline to affect them personally. The Corinthians didn’t dive into self pity at the news of Paul’s call for them to repent; they turned from their sin, and pursued holiness. They displayed a passionate production of godly fruit in keeping with their repentance that self pity could never compete with. Is this our result when we’re called to repent of our pity?
What do I do?: The difference between false and true pity is a simple matter of why we’re sorrowful in the first place? Are we sorry because our lusts went unfulfilled or are we sorry because we lust against the Lord’s will? The answers then are easy to find, stop loving ourselves and start loving God. Stop feeling sorry for ourselves and start feeling sorry that we offend our Lord. I realize that no man can pull away from the natural love of self unless the Lord gives him a desire to do so first, but we can still pray to the Lord that he will let us be like the Corinthians Paul spoke of. We can pray that the Holy Spirit will produce a true sorrow over sin in us and the result will be our practice is one of earnestness, indignation, fear, longing, zeal and punishment. Yes, we can pray and pray and practice and pray some more. We can pray for these things until the change comes. So please don’t sit and chew on how your life is so terrible, pray and practice godly sorrow in your daily lives. Strive for the holiness of God that self pity refuses to produce, knowing that it shouldn’t be our desire to wallow in self pity; rather we should always aim to please Him in all that we do. (2 Cor. 5:9)