After some thought and prayer, I believe this post needs to be written for those who are reading our stories, as well as for future brothers who want to write their own blogs. I aim not to come off as offensive, but instead as someone who wants to challenge us all to renew our thinking in writing about hurtful things in our past.

After my last post, I was thinking about how all of us, the authors, are sharing our stories about growing up, coming to grips with our sexuality, and somehow working it within our faith and horrible past hurts which sometimes can be overwhelming! It can be overwhelming, because we’re digging deep into our psyche and bringing out what makes us us! We’re tapping into something that sometimes we don’t ever want to experience again, like emotional hurt, physical pain, and spiritual depression.

While we’re writing our stories, sometimes we, the writers, can get into this funk. We might be writing about something and automatically dive into this depression mode. It’s like, “Oh, I’m gonna write, I better prepare my emotions before I write another sad story, so that my audience knows that I’m really sad while writing this!”

But there are times when we do write our stories, and we’ve been through a lot, but we don’t want to be judged because of it. Of how bad our lives got in the past or present. So, we get kind of vague with our writing and don’t want to put ourselves out there, only to get rejected by it and having it get thrown back in our faces.

Trust me, not all of us do this, but it can happen from time to time. I know I’ve been there during my Xanga blogging days!

I used to think that the sadder and more vague I got, the more people would feel sorry for me, and the more views, likes, and comments I would get. Though when I was actually doing the “sad writing” thing, not wanting to feel rejected, I was trying to meet this unattainable need of attention!

But then there’s the other side of the coin when it comes to talking about pity parties. Yes, we’re being vulnerable when telling our stories, which can project on to you guys, the readers, and you guys are allowed to sympathize or empathize with us.

Yet, we don’t want you guys to get in this mood too — where once you read our stories, you feel sorry for us all the time. Like every story or every post just gets you down, and then you start feeling like crap.

It can be equally dangerous to be in this mindset of going, “Oh, another sad story, I’ll skip this one cuz it’s the same tune like the rest!” Again, I know! I’ve been on the other side of the computer reading different blog posts others have written on various sites.

Here’s the thing: we don’t ever want to be in these positions and put you guys in this position too! All we’re trying to do is tell our stories.

Yes, there are some of us who need time to open up, who need to find ourselves through our blogs. For some, it’s the first time we’ve ever done this! It’s ok to start from a point of fear and insecurity.

If you’re fearful of being rejected, it’s ok to be honest about that! Let that be your starting point, but don’t stay there. Challenge yourself daily, or little by little, to overcome that insecurity in your life, the fear of rejection, and comparison to others.

On the other hand, there are others (like me!) who are naturals at telling our stories, because we’ve already overcome a lot of stuff in our lives. Through our struggle, we have found our voice and our purpose, and we’re comfortable whenever opening up whatever part of our lives we want to talk about.

For myself, it’s a privilege to share my life stories with you guys, whoever is reading. I get to be authentic in my writing, having the assurance that all the crap I’ve dealt with will be beneficial in the end because someone else is probably dealing with it right now, and they need to know they are loved, and they’re not alone.

It brings me joy to actually tell you guys both the good stuff and not-so-good stuff in my life.

So for my stories, don’t ever pity them or pity me. I WANT to do this! I’m always excited to write something new for you guys, even if it’s one of the uglier parts of my life. I will fight you if you ever feel sorry for me!

Romans 5: 3-5 (NLT) reads:

“We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. for we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.”

Do you tend to take pity on others or empathize with them as one? How do you find the balance of telling the sad/ugly stories from your life as well as the redemptive ones?

* Photo courtesy rayterrill, Creative Commons.

About the Author

  • It’s so good, Matthew, that you are in that place where you are comfortable with who you are. I think that will probably shine through even the re-telling of your darkest times. And that is good. It will inspire and encourage others like me who are still struggling to come to terms with themselves and life and the confusion of it all. I like that you will fight anyone who pities you.
    For me, I often still fall, and even at this moment in time I’m falling again, into the pity party trap, and it’s like being stuck in the quagmire, the quicksand, and struggling to get free, but the more one struggles the messier it seems to get. I wish there was a simple solution and an easy way out, but there doesn’t seem to be. It seems it is a matter of slow, painful, plodding progress (but hopefully still progress). Some days the light shines brightly, but others it is dark, confusing, messy. Today it’s very dark.
    I find sharing and being able to follow the stories of the bloggers here is mostly so encouraging and inspiring. It is good to know that one is not alone in the struggle, and sometimes someone shares something that just hits home in the right place at the right time. I long for a day when I can look back on all this and wonder why I struggled so much, and why it seemed so dark, confusing and painful.
    I appreciate you and the other bloggers who share your stories openly and honestly. Thank you and bless you.

  • I think one must be careful in storytelling. The Apostle admonishes us in Phil. 3:13 “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead”. And concerning the past in Phil 4:6 “thank him for all he has done”.
    Storytelling must have God as it’s focus to tell what he has done. The result of that kind of storytelling then is thankfulness not only from the storyteller but also the listeners give glory to God for the encouraging news. The result as well is that the hearers are spurred on to think if God has done that for Jon maybe he will help me as well.
    But storytelling that is only about me and my woes of the past leaves the listener dejected with a sense of sadness and pity.

  • This is great. Thank you for saying all of this. I love telling my story, but I also really love teaching God’s Truth. Often the two are intertwined because of all the work God has done in me over the years. I hate being sad or angry when I write. I feel that whatever spiritual condition I’m in when I write will be conveyed to the readers, regardless of exactly what it is I say. Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. When I write, I don’t want pity or attention. I want to encourage, teach, rebuke/correct, and train in righteousness anyone who reads what I write. Sometimes honestly revealing my past sets a good example for others to follow and so that they know they aren’t alone. That’s encouragement.

  • I think I am definitely more prone to empathize with ones story. For me, there is great joy in being able to relate with ones hurts and pains, but not out of a sense of pity, but out of great joy in beliving God is working this for His good. David wrote in the Psalms of deep grief and sorrow. His words were transparent and evident of the wondering and doubts of his heart, but what mercy and grace he revealed when he writes of taking those things to the feet of God and proclaiming the promises and truths that God has made known to us. So, the sad/ugly stories must go hand in hand with the redemptive ones. Psalm 32:3 “For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long” , I believe we are encouraged in scripture to confess the pains and wounds we bear, but not to bring self pitty, but as what Jon Evan mentioned “Storytelling must have God as it’s focus to tell what he has done.”. If your story of pain does not also include Gods redemptive work, then there needs to be an examination of how you are seeking God in this process.

    • Mike thanks for this: ” but what mercy and grace he revealed when he writes of taking those things to the feet of God”. The Psalms are what to do with our deep emotions. Whether anger, love, sorrow, pain, sadness, grief or happiness the Psalms teach us to take these to God who alone can bear them. God can handle our vent, but few humans can. Indeed, I would suggest in your journaling to write a psalm expressing to God a deep hurt whether present or past. I know that the Psalms are precious to God, but also know our own psalms written of despair and hurt that are written to Him in the dead of night are most precious to Him who is alone the “God of all comfort”. And when “darkness is my only friend” (Psalm 88, the saddest lament) it is only God who is light who can dispel that darkness!

      • Good stuff, guys! I love the in-depth conversations that’ve been happening in our comments lately. All this talk about the Storyteller, the Psalms, and pity versus empathy is so good and so needed as our site plods forward. Thanks Jon and Mike for being part of this journey with us. Much love to you both!

  • The line between empathy and pity is both a subtle and dramatic one. It’s easy for me to empathize; it’s almost too easy for me to pity others, because I’m so used to pitying myself. I’m in a better place today than I was, say, 6 years ago, but I still have those moments where I feel so sorry for myself and some other life I could have lived. Sometimes I take the same mindset with others, but I want to hold true to the promise that He who began a good work in me, in you, in all of us, will indeed complete it.
    Good stuff, brother. This was an important reminder.

  • When I tell my story, I seem to get mostly or all pity from some people. I hate it but I don’t know what I really expect instead. Yes, empathy, but let’s be honest, most people can’t relate to my story. It isn’t just SSA, it is a long childhood of abuse too. I was talking to a friend on the phone last week and he was suicidal and crying hysterically. He was worried about what I would think about him. I could relate, have compassion and empathy, because I’ve been there; many times. What I did say was that I don’t pity him. I consider him an equal in every way possible, and this moment doesn’t define him, but merely a part of a whole picture. He was unconsolable though and it didn’t go well because at one point I tried to encourage him. That was a big mistake, although I didn’t know what else to do. All at once, I was on the other side; the concerned friend side rather than the suicidal and hysterical side. I knew what I suspected; people want to help but don’t know how and they get desperate and scared. I was that person in that moment and yet in the past, as the hysterical one, I DID NOT WANT TO FEEL BETTER. That pushed people away, big time. They got angry and discouraged and simply didn’t want to talk to me any more. I had an opportunity to make a mistake, but I didn’t make the second one. I stayed in touch, and on a good day, he said he felt I was invaluable to him. I suspect it was simply the fact that I stuck around even when I heard him at his worst. So I say all of this to show how hurtful pity can be, but how powerful it can be when a person sticks with another friend who is telling their current story, even when it is bleak enough to want to die.

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