Last spring I cut my thumb on a food processor blade and had to get stitches. The cut was a rainbow shaped wound which, with the stitches in, looked like the upward looking shark of the original “Jaws” poster! I was sent home with a list of precautions to avoid infection.
Infection complicates and delays healing, and is a problem for both physical and emotional wounds. There are many different kinds of emotional infections, but only one I want to focus on here: the infection of self-pity. Self-pity is a trap we fall into when we think we are the only ones who have suffered, or that our lot in life is harder than everyone else’s. It usually manifests in anger and bitterness, or depression and a lack of motivation to keep moving forward. It is a prison. It does not aid healing; rather, self-pity is insidious because it does just the opposite: it blocks the natural course of grief and thereby interrupts healing.
When we are in grief or pain, it is natural to need comfort and to talk about our pain. It is also natural to ask questions like “why did this happen?” or “why me?” There is nothing wrong with these behaviors. The trick is to not get stuck. Just as you have to clean a wound to keep infection out, so there are habits and behaviors that can “clean our soul wounds” out. A regular practice of gratitude helps us remember that even in the darkest grief, there is still good in every day. Praise and worship in a loving community also helps by reminding us we are not alone—God and others will walk with us through this pain. If we are patient, and take precautions, our wounds will heal cleanly in their own natural time.