The Enemy Named Pity

Human nature is a tough thing to fight against, and yet it must be done.  There is a constant struggle to be grateful for “what is”, instead of longing for “what is not”.  The challenge is not limited to those who battle illness, it is prevalent among all people.  But the battle may be more intense for those who live with the necessary adjustments of continued physical decline, because “what is not” continues to increase. The drive and motivation that pushes us to achieve and excel, must often be harnessed to live happily within a realistic range of success.  None of us can control everything within and around us, so we must choose to focus our energy on reasonable goals worth achieving.  And we must learn to be content – a state which is sometimes elusive.

In addition to our inner battle against self-pity, we must also battle the pity of others.  Sometimes I can see pity in the eyes of those who look at me and it tempts me to look at myself in the same way.  I do miss being able to do so many things and do things as well as I once did.  But dealing with grief is just part of my daily routine and does not increase or decrease as a result of others’ pity toward me.  People around us seem to fall into three categories: (1) those who choose not to see us at all, (2) those who choose to see us as less than we are and (2) those who choose to get to know us and see our value even when it’s disguised.  Facial expressions and/or words can quickly identify which category others belong in.  If you are among the able-bodied, which category do you choose to be in?   It’s usually easy to ignore the first two groups.  But we are not safe from pity within the third group.  Those who know us and even care about us can be tempted to wrap us in a protective bubble that prevents real relationships from forming or deepening.

People have said they hesitate to voice their problems to me because they feel their problems pale in comparson to what I deal with.  Some believe it is an insult to complain about a physical ailment that does not match the level or severity of mine.  I have not entered a competition for “most pathetic”.  When others avoid real and honest conversation, they are not protecting me from heartache as they think they are; but they are creating heartache by leaving me in a vacuum void of real conversation and deep relationships.  One of the few things that I am still able to do for others is listen.  Although I strive to be a good listener, I cannot listen if others are not willing to talk.  I’d also like to know how I can pray for others, because my situation allows me more time than most have for prayer.


Listening to others share their happiness, excitement and daily lives is a welcome distraction.  I’m eager to be happy for you.  Hearing others vent about life’s challenges and frustrations reminds me that life isn’t easy for anyone and offers me an opportunity to be a caring friend.  Everyone has challenges in their lives and everything is relative.  In my eyes, your ability to walk does not lessen the challenges you deal with.

I deal with a loss of productivity and search for ways to do worthwhile things.  Relationships are important…no, necessary.  Everyone needs to vent from time to time.  Sometimes, just voicing problems helps us recognize solutions.  Counseling and therapy are expensive.  I am available…and free.  There is an endless list of things I cannot do, but my ears still work and listening is among the things I can do and want to do.

If you need an ear, please talk to me.  Friends share the good, the bad and the ugly in life.  A Swedish Proverb says “Friendship doubles our joy and divides our grief”. James Dobson says “This is one of the powerful paradoxes of the Christian life: When we share someone else’s pain, we often shed some of our own. When we help others, we end up helping ourselves. When we lift another’s burdens, ours lighten.” I have plenty of time – stop and share it with me.  I can offer you comfort and confidentiality.  Let me be a safe place for you – it helps me feel valued and respected, gifts I readily accept and treasure.



About Climbing Downhill

Wife and mother of grown kids, in my 60's and dealing with MS, making life's moments count and trying to offer something of value to others along the way.
This entry was posted in Enemies, MS/Multiple Sclerosis and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to The Enemy Named Pity

  1. A truly beautiful post which echoes much of how I feel. I am always telling people who dont want to compain because their pain is much less than the daily struggles I contend with (secondary progressive MS). I try to say to them that their pain is theirs, mine is mine. There is nothing to compare and, yes it does get in the way of real meaningful relationships. I am a good listener too; I may not be able to walk very much now but there is much I still can do. But some days I can feel I am less than… Less than I was or less than others. On those days I just work harder at turning those negative emotions into positive ones. 😊


    • I’m sorry you are in the same situation, Christine, but I really appreciate your comment and like your response to people that “their pain is theirs, mine is mine. There is nothing to compare”.

  2. That sums beautifully everything that’s always bothered me about how people treat our relationships. I’ve come to realise, sometimes it’s easier to not let others know your worries so that they continue being true to their own feelings without concerning themselves that they are a burden. It doesn’t matter how much we go through individually, being there for others is a part of who we are, and it feels right to be there for them no matter what’s sitting on our shoulders. Just because we have a little weight, doesn’t mean we don’t care too.

  3. stephen says:

    Many years ago, my daughter was in the throes of a very serious life-threatening illness. I would soak up almost the entire hour of my men’s group talking about my fears, concerns, and other issues. People would respond by saying that they felt that their problems were so much less important than mine, to which I tried to reply that everyone’s problems are equally important. The issues that I was dealing with were no less huge or difficult than the issues the other men were dealing with. Despite the issues I continue to have with my own health, I would much rather talk about other people’s issues than mine!

  4. Agreed. We need to be there for each other and that takes sharing on both sides.

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