11/24/2014 08:12 am ET Updated Nov 24, 2014

On Self-Pity

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It was a sunny Sunday afternoon; you were nine years old. Your parents wouldn’t let you have any ice cream if you didn’t do your maths homework. It was achingly unfair. Every other child in the world was playing football or watching television. No one else has such a mean mother. It was just awful.

We learned self-pity when we were young. We’re all – in theory – dead against it. Self-pity is deeply unattractive because it reveals egoism in its most basic form, a failure to put our own suffering into proper perspective against the larger backdrop of human history. It shows how easily our own stubbed toe might matter more than a million dead in a far-off land.

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