Ummm, I am writing this while currently at a pity party. It’s okay. Not a big deal. Just walked through a season of immense grief and just when I was looking forward to Christmas break and my kid coming home from college and a family vacation, Covid went and poo’ed on the whole thing. First world problems, right? But here I sit sick as a dog in my living room… can’t go to work, can’t hang with friends, can’t go to a grocery store, can’t go to the gym… who am I kidding, I wouldn’t be going anyway. But this is definitely the best time to act like I have a Peloton 😉 It’s in moments like this where you find you’re at a party you don’t want to be at.
And aren’t pity parties the worst? They aren’t all that effective. They don’t make you feel better or inspire you in any possible way. And we all have them. I think we are just afraid to admit we do because we are so used to comparing our lives to other people and we know there’s always someone who deserves way more pity than we do. So we like to go to pity parties and not tell anyone we’re there. We feel sorry for ourselves, by ourselves. Could there be anything worse? So here I sit. And I figured there’s no better time to share the 4 things to do to get out of a pity party than while I am at one. So here they are:
1. Own where you’re at. The last thing we need is to go on pretending things aren’t hard when they are. Dismissing our own pain or sweeping that disappointment under the rug, none of that does us any favors. When you start to feel sad about how things have gone or where they are at. Stop and recognize if you’re at a pity party. I love what one of my coworkers says “If you find yourself at a pity party, don’t stay long.” I can guarantee you that if you own that you’re there, you will leave a lot sooner. But otherwise you might take this party way too far into your future than you want to.
2. Know why you’re there. Randy Pries teaches in the “Toxic Relationships & Setting Healthy Boundaries” class in our Collide Counseling Bundle that the difference between expectations and reality is disappointment. This concept has helped me so much. When our reality is so much different than what we hoped for, we can find ourselves disappointed. It doesn’t have to be something major. It could be the family reunion you planned that got canceled. It could be that time you were really looking forward to your bucket list concert and you spent all your money to buy tickets and the sound and seats sucked. It could be that thing you’ve been hoping for that keeps not showing up. It could be the blind date that had you anticipating this could be “the one” and he turned out to be a total dud. It could be another pregnancy test that comes back “not pregnant.” It could be getting laid off again when you thought you finally landed your dream job.
It is so important that when we feel bummed, we stop and ask ourselves why. I am sitting here and asking myself how the reality I am experiencing is different from what I expected and hoped for. And it’s very simple. After a hard fall of grief and one hard thing after another, I just wanted a hardship break. A time to catch my breath, to rest and especially a sweet time with family since my son was finally home. I wanted laughter and adventure and joy and health and instead I got sickness and cancellations and isolation and a cough. My son left last night and of course the second he left I started balling. It seemed silly. Why cry so much because your 18 year old kid is heading back to college? And I realized I was feeling deeply because what I hoped we would experience together, we didn’t experience. And I’m bummed.
You know it’s okay to say you’re bummed? I think we feel embarrassed or ashamed like we can only be bummed if there’s a cancer diagnosis or a bad car accident or some tragic thing, but everything else, we just need to take it, face the music and act like we’re fine. Maybe our inability to be real about the smaller disappointments in life are why we keep finding ourselves at pity parties? I am going to encourage you while I do this, to pay close attention to how your hopes and expectations don’t look anything like your reality. And call it what it is: disappointment. Once we do that, we can put words to how we are feeling and move on from there.
3. Ask God what He is doing in you at this party. You’ll find Jesus at several parties when you read the Bible. I love that He shows up there. And guess what? He will show up to you at your pity party too. The one where you keep scrolling through your feed of disappointments. The one where you keep drinking to numb the pain. The one where you can’t stop obsessing on how it went wrong. The one where you keep mulling over all your great, great plans and how they all died a death. Jesus shows up there too.
Not only did Jesus show up to parties, but He told a story about a party in Luke 15. You’ve probably heard about it, but at the end of the story where a son who deserves very little comes home to his father. This is the son who basically threw his middle finger up in the air at his dad, who took his dad’s money and squandered it on selfish living. This son comes home after being very very lost, lost in self indulgence and pleasure, lost in selfishness and finding himself at the expense of others, lost in pig slop. He comes home and the father wants to throw a rager to celebrate that his prodigal son has returned. I mean this dad, man, he loves his kid so much that he isn’t looking back, he’s looking forward. He’s enveloping his kid with grace, despite the pain caused. This father brings the entire community in to celebrate his son being alive, here, found.
And right smack dab in the middle of this party, the older son shows up and gives his dad a piece of his mind. This brother is so ticked that the father would go to such great lengths to throw a party dousing his screwed up brother with such undeserved forgiveness that he starts to feel sorry for himself. You can see it. He basically starts laying out all the reasons why the father should be throwing him a party instead of his brother. This reality is certainly not what the older brother expected. Boy, God’s grace for others can really reveal some things in us, can’t it?
Isn’t it interesting that the older son is throwing a pity party while his younger brother is being thrown a celebration and Jesus shows up to both their parties? Sometimes the pity party shows us things we need to see. What do you need to see right now? Sometimes I need to see things in myself. I need to see how I set the bar too high. I need to see how I put too much on family and friends to make my experience awesome. I need to see that why I am really sad is not because I was let down by today’s circumstances but I am actually deeply sad because I was let down by a circumstance 30 years ago. And I am still trying to make yesterday’s pain better by mending it with today’s joys. And that just won’t work and I need to see that. Sometimes I need to see my attitude. I need to stare it straight in the face and have a come to Jesus meeting. And sometimes I need to hear Jesus say “you’ve been through a lot. It’s okay to be sad. I weep with you.”
Here’s the thing… there’s something God is doing in you at your pity party. Ask Him what you need to see.
4. Let Jesus pull you out of this party into a new one. Friend, this might seem like the silliest of all advices, but truly, truly, go do something that makes you just want to praise God. Like turn on Maverick City Music and just claim what you know is true about God. Just go crazy telling Him all the things you love about Him. Sing at the top of your lungs. Get in your car and go on a drive and be that weirdo Christian that just plays worship music so loud it might blow your speakers. Go on a walk in the freaking rain and let the elements remind you who made you. Turn on a podcast that keeps pointing you back to hope. Man, if hope was for sale in a bottle, we could be rollin’. But guess what? Hope is free. And every time you allow Jesus to show up at a party you’re at, everyone there leaves with hope, including you. Go do the thing that connects you with your God. Instead of sitting on the couch hoping Netflix and chocolate will heal your disappointment, go party with Jesus. Have a moment with the One who shows up to the most hopeless parties and walks people into greater life, greater purpose, and greater hope. He will meet you there.