Musing About… Wallowing

I heard her draw in a deep breath, just before she switched her Southern accent from a North Carolina flavor to now mimicking one of a Georgia belle, “That boy is a P-I-G, pig!” Knowing right off the bat that she was quoting a quite memorable line from the classic movie, Animal House, I looked around to see what unfortunate sap she was referring to. There was the girl sitting nearby with unkempt hair, but no, her gaze was not in this one’s direction. Maybe it was the studly man standing by the window, waiting to be seated. I studied him for just a moment, envying the chiseled jawline and assessing that he could be a brother of Ben Affleck. So no, she definitely wouldn’t be calling him a pig. I surmised if she had noticed him, she would have been salivating too much to think of him as a pig. So then, who could have raised her disdain? Finally, my gaze fell upon the toddler sitting at the next table. Of course! It had to be him. Though his back was to me, I quickly concluded that since he was about three, his eating skills probably have yet to be honed, and surely his face would be smeared with the peanut butter and grape jelly sandwich he was immensely enjoying. But alas, as I traced the trajectory of her gaze, I detected her swine detector alarm had not sounded because of this young lad; instead, it was transfixed on me! “Why me?!” I squealed. Then, in the lower periphery of my vision, I noted an orange hue emanating from the otherwise white shirt I was wearing. My head dropped in embarrassment. I should have known better. I know that it is nearly impossible for me to eat spaghetti without wearing some home. Not only was today not an exception to this fact, it was a day of abundant spillage. Although I had cleaned up and was presentable earlier, the P-I-G pig in me came out and there was no hiding any longer. I tried to cover my shirt with my jacket as I left the restaurant, intending to hold my head high as I walked past my accuser, but I was only able to snort and wallow off in misery.

It is rather difficult to try to muster any sense of pride when your faults have been exposed. Most of us can rise above the moment, but when we have a moment to be alone, safe from any more ridicule or mockery, our wounded ego begins to writhe in agony and we wallow in our despair.

Often, we are told to suck it up and get off our pity potty. But lately, I wonder, is it so bad to wallow for a while? Being a city boy and not knowing much about farming, I had to study a bit on why pigs wallow in the mud so much. Is it just because it is fun, and they like to be dirty and smelly? After a bit of research, I found the primary reason for wallowing, or rolling in the mud, is for comfort and protection. It seems flies are attracted to pigs; maybe they like pork as much as the rest of us. They find a pig and they bite it. Of course, this hurts and irritates the pig, so it wallows in mud to soothe the sores and to help fend off the pesky flies from any more of their attacks. I began to see a bit of correlation there—when we wallow in pity, we are attempting to soothe our pain and fend off our attackers, too. That’s human nature.

We can find examples of some of our biblical heroes wallowing in their pity. Take for example, the plight in Psalm 42, which begins with these words: As the deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, the living God. When shall I come and behold the face of God? My tears have been my food day and night, while people say to me continually, “Where is your God?” Those don’t sound like words from a self-assured person, do they? They sound more like the lamenting of one who has had more than his or her share of personal attacks and is wounded emotionally. As awful as these moments are, it is often in these moments that we find respite for our souls, as we pour out our heartfelt pain and emerge from behind the facade known as pride.

When channeled in the right direction, wallowing can be cathartic. Allowing ourselves to see that we aren’t as mighty and invincible as we would like to be, can be liberating. It frees us from the drudgery of feeling that we have to always be in control. It allows us to relinquish ourselves to the loving and merciful hands of God. The psalmist ends his lamentation like this: Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my help and my God. That sounds like someone who has purged their pain, has found hope and is ready to live life again.

Wallowing isn’t always a bad thing. It can be soothing when we are sore and pestered by those little things that want to suck the life out of us. But when we do find ourselves in the muck and mire of distress, maybe it would behoove us to remember the pig. It doesn’t stay in the mud; it emerges from it…and so should we.