James’s Blog: Self-Pity and Lolly-Sticks.

Like all the best people, I’m prone to self-pity. “Why me…?” I might say, or maybe “Everyone else has it better than me…” or “They never have problems, unlike me…” and sometimes “Why can’t I just get a break?” etc. It feels quite good, but it’s really just a way of saying, “Life isn’t treating me the way that I’m entitled to be treated”, and as such self-pity is nothing more than cleverly disguised pride.  Well, for me, at least.  I’m sure that for you your whining is entirely justified.

One of the best ways of knocking the self-pity goblin on the head is thankfulness. I’ve already written about the importance of gratitude, but the great thing about being thankful is that it has real-life, goblin-killing, magical powers!

One of my children attended an after-school club called Pilgrimz. No, that’s not a typo; apparently that’s the kind of thing that appeals to The Youf these days. Pilgrimz is a Christian group, run by one of the local clergy and helpers. It follows the tried-and-tested formula of Bible story and craft activity (One day I’ll write an entire blog post on why this is such an excellent combination). After one particular session Xanthe brought home a pot filled with old ice-lolly sticks. On the sticks she had written the names of family and friends. She was supposed to draw a stick at random and do something kind for the person named on the stick. Now that’s not a bad idea.

Anyway, it gave me an idea, and now I commend it to you. On my desk I have a ‘Best Dad Ever’ mug that was given to me as a Father’s Day present. In that mug are a bundle of coloured lolly-sticks. On each stick I’ve written the name of a person, or a church, or an organisation, or I might have written a word or two that relates to a particular thing I’ve learnt or experienced – sometimes an enjoyable thing, sometimes a painful thing, but always something that has left me better off than I was before. When the self-pity goblin knocks at the door, I draw a stick at random and spend just a couple of seconds thanking God for the name or experience written on the stick. Maybe I’ll draw a second, or a third, or a fourth stick. Maybe I won’t. It doesn’t really matter, because one tends to do the job. I’ll tell you this, I have never found anything that kills self-pity quicker than my cup of lolly-sticks.