Looking Out Or Looking In?

12 Aug

“When I hear someone sigh, ‘Life is hard,’ I am always tempted to ask, ‘Compared to what?'”  ~ Sydney Harris

One of the things that I realized very early in my life was that it is extremely easy to have a “pity party” for oneself.  Truly.  All we need to do is look at our life, see the many things that we wanted and did not receive or achieve, and feel sorry for ourselves.  If we do that long enough, it is just as easy to find even more disappointments.  Before we know it, we will be in full-blown pity party mode.

While you chuckle to yourself as you read this, I am sure that you are also ticking off the number of people that you know who actually are involved in their own pity parties.  You might even be remembering a few of your own.

As I said, it is easy to do, given our frail human nature, as long as we keep the focus directed upon ourselves.

It is extremely difficult, on the other hand, to have a pity party if our focus is directed outward.  I cannot begin to count the number of times I have encountered people in deplorable health situations in hospitals, nursing homes, or in hospice.  I remember feeling awful for them and what they were going through.  Time and time again, I also remember the surprise when I would hear them say in these or similar words, “But I’m not as bad as…” and they would recall someone else in desperate condition and tell me how they were praying for the other person.

When we keep our attention focused outward, we do not have the time, nor the inclination, to feel sorry for ourselves.  We come to realize that there are many other people who are in the same shape as we are and even more who are in worse shape.  Given that knowledge, how can we feel sorry for ourselves?  We cannot.

Jesus knows us.  He knows our frail conditions.  He knows what angers us, what makes us disappointed, what makes us hurt, and what makes us suffer.  Perhaps that was why He so often insisted that we turn our attention to the needs of others.  It helps us keep our minds off of ourselves and our own hurts.  It helps us to discover the common bond that we all share.  It helps us to remember that God has not nor will not abandon us.

As long as we are willing to help another, we represent the presence and love of God.  That is something to celebrate.

FAITH ACTION:  Look to and try to provide for the needs of another today.