Is self-pity selfish?

In yesterday’s post I mentioned that the Guardian decided to attack Stephen Fry because, supposedly, he said child sex abuse survivors needed to grow up. What the media and the social media consumers ignored was that he was actually talking about freedom of speech, political correctness, and what he perceived as the rise of infantilism in Western culture, and what he was saying at the end was directed at what he saw as self-pity in those who supposedly need trigger warnings. If you watch the whole interview, and then look at the media articles and social media comments condemning him, it should be pretty obvious that he was misquoted. You don’t have to agree with him – in fact I personally found myself sort of disagreeing with some of his suggestions – and you might not be entirely wrong to question his views and his background, but the fact is he made a good point about self-pity in relation to campus censorship, and even if he is “privileged” that doesn’t make him wrong. If I have any major complaint towards him, it’s that he apologized for expressing his views just to appease the unjustified outrage that was born of ignorance towards his actual statements.

But Stephen Fry is not really what this post is about. This post is about self-pity. I read an article defending Fry’s comments, stating that self-pity is a “selfish” emotion. Being a Satanist, and sort of ethical egoist partly by virtue of me being a Satanist, I can’t help but disagree with the term selfish being bandied around as a dirty word (just like the term “ego” in almost every spiritual path), and with the idea that self-pity is selfish. Being selfish means you live your life for yourself and your own fulfillment, rather than put the life and fulfillment of others before your own. Self-pity, to me, wouldn’t achieve that. Seriously, what does one stand to gain through wallowing in self-pity? It is as a gloomy and tepid state, it is horrible, and it is destructive to self-esteem. Those afflicted with self-pity focus only on the negative aspects of their lives, and denigrate themselves and chip away at their self-worth and self-love because of it. I even know a brother who tends to think only negatively of his past because he sees it as inferior to his present. And with self-pity, there will always be the shadow of becoming a victim (or thinking yourself such) by your own hands. If anything self-pity is self-abnegating, self-denying, not selfish. If anything else, it’s purely irrational. In any case, you’re destroying yourself based on the perception that you’re not good enough, or because of the thought that something bad happened to you. A person conscientious towards his or her own self-interest, let alone someone who is a Satanist, needs little mental effort recognize that there’s no profit to be had from letting such an emotion take over.

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