At this very moment, there’s a voicemail on my phone that I haven’t heard. I know who it’s from and have been hoping the message and its owner will disappear if I continue to ignore them. Why? Because the person who called thrives on doling out pity and I am not here for it.
For the record, this isn’t the average pity. It is of the Incredible Hulk variety, complete with bulging, green muscles and an uncontrollable nature that when unleashed, freely tramples innocent bystanders. In other words, he takes no pity on those he overwhelms with pity.
A conversation with him goes something like this:
Him: “Hey stranger, how have you been?”
Me: “Hey there, I’m good. You?”
Him: “I’m doing great! You sure you’re OK? You sound kinda down.”
Me: “Yeah, I’m fine. Just feeling a little under the weather.”
Him: “Oh nooooo!!! That’s AWFUL! I hate to hear that! Are you sure you’re gonna be OK? If there’s anything I can do to help, just let me know. I feel SO bad for you.”
At this point, I would love nothing more than to hang up in his face. Other than this grating habit, he’s a nice enough guy who I’ve known for several years but our infrequent conversations are typically (and purposely) one-sided, with me listening and offering one-word responses while he steadily fishes for the latest non-existent disaster in my life. Little does he know, I wouldn’t tell him if I had a mosquito bite.
An article published in Psychology Today argues that “…pity is not vicious. Pitiers may not do enough from a moral point of view, but they do no harm.” It also states, “Pity involves the belief that the object does not deserve such substantial misfortune; the stronger the belief, the more intense the emotion.” By these standards, he pities me because he doesn’t think I should be subjected to anything bad, and although its not necessarily helping me, it doesn’t hurt. I beg to differ because listening to him feel sorry for me makes my blood boil, and as someone who struggles with blood pressure issues, that negatively impacts my health, thereby proving that pity does indeed do harm.
That said, I really want to give this pity thing a fair shake just to make sure I’m not making a mistake. Should I be grateful to know someone who cares enough to feel sorry for me? He probably thinks he’s being really supportive. Pity can’t be all bad, can it?
After some thought, I realized the only time I welcome pity is when I think I’ll gain something from it, sort of like when my puppy dog eyes prompt my husband to give me a bite of his fried catfish even though he told me no because I’m on a diet (again). And sometimes I go through periods where I experience a great deal of self-pity until I can gain the clarity I need to work through whatever issue I’m facing. In cases like this, yes, pitying me is perfectly acceptable. On the other hand, when I have a problem, I want someone to a) listen, b) sympathize, and c) hopefully understand and relate to my stance. Nowhere in that list is pity. NOWHERE.
With that in mind, I probably won’t be returning his call anytime soon, at least not without a major attitude adjustment on my part. He will probably detect annoyance in my voice and use that as an opportunity to pounce and problem-prod and I’m afraid I just don’t have the patience. Any more pity and I’m liable to shrivel up into a steaming pile of nothingness like the Wicked Witch in “The Wizard of Oz.”
Call me crazy for not changing my phone number. Dismiss me as a wimp for not telling this guy to take a hike already. But please, for the love of God, don’t pity me.