As I continue to study Philippians, I am confronted with how Paul responds to his circumstances. Paul is imprisoned for the “defense and confirmation of the gospel” (1:7). His response? Thanksgiving (1:3), joy (1:4), love and concern for others (1:8), rejoicing (4:4), and contentment (4:11). What’s missing from Paul’s response? Self-pity. While he had every reason to do so, Paul never hints that he felt sorry for himself.
Self-pity is popular right now. Many cultural trends are based upon it: microaggressions, safe spaces, “hate” speech, “homophobia,” toxic masculinity, gender equality, third-wave feminism, the patriarch, etc. “I’m a victim; I’ve been wronged; my feelings matter!” goes the thinking. The title of one new book—The Rise of Victimhood Culture—aptly describes our cultural moment.
While there are victims in this world and some suffer greatly (Jesus himself as the greatest example), the Bible doesn’t instruct us to find identity in victimhood. The Bible never praises self-pity. Scripture never encourages us to feel bad for ourselves. On the contrary, Paul’s example teaches us that Christians ought to reject self-pity. We ought to strive with Paul to say, “We are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Rom 8:37).