Self-Pity

Although Millicent Fenwick has been dead for nearly twenty years, her words of wisdom are not. This week the Huffington Post featured Dr. Mardy Grothe’s new book “Neverisms: A Quotation Lover’s Guide to Things You Should Never Do, Never Say, or Never Forget” (HarperCollins, 2011). Among those quoted is Millicent Fenwick, “Never feel self-pity, the most destructive emotion there is.”

Fenwick could have harbored feelings of self-pity over the tragic loss of her mother when the Lusitania was torpedoed by the Germans in 1915, killing more than a 1,000 innocent victims and leaving 5-year-old Millicent motherless. Or she could have pitied herself when her husband left her with two young children to raise and accumulated debt she knew nothing about. Or she could have felt sorry for herself when she woke up on November 3, 1982, and learned that Frank Lautenberg would be New Jersey’s next U.S. Senator, not her.

But each time she soldiered on rather than wallow in the destructiveness of self-pity, always moving forward not back. And that’s just what she did when she lost her first election at the age of 72, “It has been a wonderful battle but we lost,” Fenwick said. “I’ve just got to admit it and take it in good spirits and go on to work for the good of the state.” Despite the defeat, praised poured in as did a presidential appointment. Within a year, Fenwick found herself representing the United States as the first U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization in Rome. Not a bad consolation prize.

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