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Self pity comes from circumstances in our lives, which gives rise to thoughts coming out of our lower nature, which convince us that we don’t matter and that life is never going to get any better.  Sometimes it can start with somebody breaking your heart or a test that doesn’t make sense.

1.  Broken Heart:  Your lower nature had you believe that someone’s love (often a parent or spouse) was supposed to be unconditional, but that was putting unreasonable expectations on another human being.  There is only one “Best Lover” (one of the names of God found in the Fire Tablet), and that is God.   He will never let us down, even when we think He has:

If, however, for a few days, in compliance with God’s all-encompassing wisdom, outward affairs should run their course contrary to one’s cherished desire, this is of no consequence and should not matter. Our intent is that all the friends should fix their gaze on the Supreme Horizon, and cling to that which hath been revealed in the Tablets.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Fire and Light, p. 10)

If you have a broken heart, you expect to be hurt by everyone for the rest of your life.  In order to get past this, you need to stop taking responsibility for the sins of others as if they were yours.

For example, my broken heart came with my first instance of sexual abuse by my father, and hearing my mother say in response:  “I wish she’d never been born.”  Neither the abuse, nor her hurtful comment had anything to do with me, though I believed it did.  Once I realized that they were responsible for my care and protection, and their actions were arising from their lower natures, and hooked into my lower nature when I believed it had anything to do with me, I was able to get free of my self pity.

When you understand that self pity comes from a broken heart; from the damage caused by someone who was supposed to love you, you’ll be able to get rid of self pity.

2.  Adversity:  When adversity comes to us, it doesn’t take much for us to curse God, lose our faith and want to die.  This is what our lower nature wants us to do.  It wants you to give up, but if we do, we’ll never overcome it and we’ll lose an opportunity to grow.  Life is filled with obstacles.  It’s built into the world we live in.  There is a positive and negative side to adversity.  It’s how the gold is refined and if handled correctly, it provides you with steps to freedom.

Assuredly gold is purified by being submitted to the fire and if it contain any alloy or imperfection, it will disappear. That is the reason why violent tests become the cause of the everlasting glory of the righteous.   (Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of Abdu’l-Bahá v3, p. 655)

There is glory in tribulation, because it’s the first step towards victory.  When we can overcome our difficulties they’re no longer problems.  We never have to work at them again because we’ve perfected them.  The things we’ve overcome become our victories; which changes our personality and our spirituality and who we are.  But to overcome takes practice, and we can’t practice without taking the first steps.  Self pity won’t let you take those steps.  The experience of trying produces hope, even when we fall.  For example, when we learned to ride a bicycle, we ended up with a lot of scraped elbows and knees but we learned to ride, and that skill stays with us our whole life.  We can spend decades not riding a bike and then getting back on it and ride it successfully.

We will fall down as Bahá’is but we have to get up and keep trying with God’s help:

We Bahá’ís can always, with the aid of Bahá’u’lláh, Who, is ever ready to strengthen and assist us, turn our stumbling blocks into stepping stones.  (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 602-603)

We’ll never grow if we don’t start growing.  We’ll never overcome if we don’t start overcoming.  We’ll never do anything if we don’t have anything to do.  Take action!  When you’re up against a mountain, it looks big, but when you’re climbing and look down, it looks smaller.  We won’t be instantly victorious, but if we don’t take action, we won’t be victorious at all.

The negative side to adversity is when we don’t use it to change.  Self pity will reinforce doing nothing to make the situation better.  Doing nothing is not the same as being still.  When we’re still, we’re allowing God to direct our movement and our stillness:

If it be Thy pleasure, make me to grow as a tender herb in the meadows of Thy grace, that the gentle winds of Thy will may stir me up and bend me into conformity with Thy pleasure, in such wise that my movement and my stillness may be wholly directed by Thee.  (Baha’u’llah, Prayers and Meditations by Baha’u’llah, p. 240)

And it’s a pleasant place to be:

Pleasant is the realm of being, wert thou to attain thereto . . . Shouldst thou attain this station, thou wouldst be freed from destruction and death, from toil and sin.  (Baha’u’llah, The Persian Hidden Words 70)

Being still feels good, but self pity does not.  It breeds all kinds of other sins:  fear, bitterness, self hatred, judgement.

3.  Persecution:  When you become a Bahá’í, and take on teaching others about the Faith, you can expect to be persecuted, so when it happens, know that it’s part of God’s plan and don’t get mired in self pity about it:

The circumstances will be severe for every thankful servant (i. e., believer in the Teachings) . . . The people shall arise against you with the most bitter hatred, opposition and envy. Swords of persecution and curses shall be thrown at you . . . The wind of tests and trials shall fiercely blow and thereby the weak trees, which are not firmly rooted in this wonderful vineyard, shall be uprooted.   (Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of Abdu’l-Bahá v2, p. 268)

Instead, we can hold on to this thought:

But the trees which are strong, thriving and green will be strengthened, their branches extended, their leaves opened, their appearance beautified and their blossoms and fruits increased.   (Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of Abdu’l-Bahá v2, p. 268)

‘Abdul-Bahá is praying for us:

I ask God to make thee one of those firmly rooted trees and an extended branch in this most great vineyard, and to make thy heart like unto a cup overflowing with His love in every assemblage. Verily He is the Powerful, the Generous!  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of Abdu’l-Bahá v2, p. 268)

In the west, we’ve never known the physical persecutions experience by the Bahá’ís in Iran, the Cradle of the Faith.  Instead, our tests are mental.  Martyrdom is equated to teaching for the peoples of the West:

Every day has certain needs. In those early days the Cause needed Martyrs, and people who would stand all sorts of torture and persecution in expressing their faith and spreading the message sent by God. Those days are, however, gone. The Cause at present does not need martyrs who would die for the faith, but servants who desire to teach and establish the Cause throughout the world. To live to teach in the present day is like being martyred in those early days. It is the spirit that moves us that counts, not the act through which that spirit expresses itself; and that spirit is to serve the Cause of God with our heart and soul.  (Shoghi Effendi, The Compilation of Compilations vol II, p. 5)

Do you want to be a weak tree, or a strong tree?  Am I going to let the effects of my broken heart, my adversity and persecution win?  That’s the question I need to ask myself frequently, as self pity pulls me down and makes me unable to participate in the activities of the faith from time to time.  So now when I catch myself collapsing into that quagmire, I remind myself of ‘Abdul-Bahá’s promise and prayer.  If I allow self pity to win, my faith is based on my feelings and emotions arising from my lower nature, and not based on God’s Truth as written in the Bahá’í Writings.

Who broke your heart?  What adversity and persecution led you into self pity?  What helped you get past it?  Post your comments here.

Other articles in this series:

What is Self Pity?

How do we know if we’ve got it?

What are the effects?

Why should we stop feeling sorry for ourselves?

How can we transform it?

Using Role Models