A few days ago, I woke up to a torrential downpour. My throat was sore, and I’d had a terrible night of sleep. The alarm clock blared and my first thought was, “This is not going to be a good day.” Before my feet touched the floor, I convinced myself I could see the future, and it didn’t look good.
In less than an hour, I was in a completely different place – psychologically and spiritually. How did that happen? What changed? Instead of acting on my feelings, I acted on my better impulses.
First, I did a good deed I’d planned last night, even though I wasn’t feeling it – at all. I gift-wrapped a loaf of homemade pumpkin bread, put on a raincoat, and drove across town to deliver it to someone who was awful to my family last week. When I gave it to her, I thanked her for having acknowledged that she’d behaved horribly, and I told her we value her friendship.
I got back in my car and… guess what? I felt a little better. I’d done it for her – schlepping around in the downpour while blowing my nose sure wasn’t for me! – but, it turned out to be good for me, too.
On the way home, I stopped for a bagel. Seated at the table next to me was a woman coughing loudly. When I turned to give her a “could you quiet down?” look, I noticed her soaking wet pants and windbreaker. She realized she’d called too much attention to herself, and got up to leave. Several minutes later, as I headed for the highway, I saw her slogging through the downpour. Apparently heading nowhere.
I felt a nudge to help and thought, ‘She’s over there and I’m over here, and the light’s about to change.’ I felt another nudge and thought, ‘I’d have to drive past the exit to catch her.’ Another nudge. I looked down and saw two meal coupons in my cup holder. They were for her.
So, I crossed three lanes of traffic and pulled over to wait for her. She crossed the street. Frustrated, I pulled out into traffic and crossed the street to meet her. She saw my car and made a detour. Determined now to accomplish my mission, I pulled up next to her and rolled down the window.
“Are you hungry and wanting to go somewhere warm and dry?” I shouted over the rain.
“I sure am,” she answered dejectedly. I realized she didn’t expect me to offer any help. Had I pulled over just to harass her? To tell her to leave the neighborhood?
“Take these coupons,” I said as I extended my arm out the window. “They’re good for food at that restaurant right there. They’ll let you use them for whatever you need.” The woman’s self-pity gave way to gratitude and a smile crept over her face.
“God bless you,” she said as she took the coupons from my hand.
As I watched her enter the restaurant, the words ‘It is a blessing to be a blessing’ came to mind, and I realized: that’s literally true. The rain was still falling. My throat still hurt. I was just as sniffly and tired. But, I wasn’t feeling self-pity any more. Instead, I felt purposeful and thankful. I’d brought a moment of light into two dark situations, setting aside self-pity long enough to do it. Now, I felt the quiet joy that comes with being obedient and acting out of a servant’s heart.
What a blessing.
Self-pity is a tricky thing. We tell ourselves we are responding reasonably to what feels crummy and unfair. It seems like a small enough indulgence, given the fact that we’re suffering (to some degree). But underneath the veneer of justifiability, it is a toxic thing.
It’s not grief. It’s not part of a healthy healing process. Self-pity is a choice to turn our backs on the God we say we trust, so we can focus our attention on ourselves and the awfulness of this moment. It is a rejection of God’s promise to be faithful – because we’re not feeling it. We’re not sensing victory and blessing. Instead, we’re feeling cursed and defeated. And frankly, that stinks.
The next time infertility invites you to a pity party, make the effort to bless someone. It will change your mood, your outlook, and your trajectory. And it will remind you that God blesses all of us through one another.
For more inspiration and cause for hope, read Pregnant With Hope: Good News for Infertile Couples and visit PregnantWithHope.com