Over the last month, I had a difficult conversation with two different friends—long time friends I trust. In both cases, I felt like they were taking something away from me…and that came with a mixture of unpleasant emotions. Disappointment, hurt, anger. With the assistance of my spiritual director, I realized that I was playing a role that many of us know well: the role of victim.
I’m going to take a wild guess here and say that pretty much no one wakes up in the morning saying to themselves, “You know, I feel like being a victim today. I think I’m going to give away all power of choice and embrace the belief that the world is out to do me wrong, and I can do nothing about it.” No, the victim mindset is much more subtle and insidious than that. So while it is a choice, it is usually an unconscious one.
Like most lies, the victim lie is rooted in a grain of truth. What is that truth? That we have all been victimized. The world we live in is both beautiful beyond imagination…and broken at depths that continue to surprise us. That brokenness means that other people, impersonal circumstances, and even we ourselves generate suffering for ourselves. It’s a fact. There is plenty of pain to go around, and it is not distributed fairly. Often we get less than we “deserve,” and sometimes we get more. But disappointment and loss are woven into the fabric of life. How we understand that pain and how we incorporate it into our beliefs—that is a choice we get to make.
Dr. Phil, the famous TV psychologist, became famous for a single line: So how is that working for you? Since we each get to choose our beliefs, it’s a fair question. And a powerful question. And we pretty much know how the victim mindset works out for us—we begin to interpret all circumstances through the lens of that belief, discarding good events as accidents and affirming bad events as the norm. At one level, all mindsets are self-fulfilling this way. Our mindsets may or may not affect what happens to us, but without question they shape how we experience those events. More importantly, they shape our very identity—our sense of self and our view of the purpose we play on planet earth.
Where does that leave us? In a word, empowered.
You get to choose your version of reality. You get to interpret your circumstances. What role will you assign yourself? There are lots of options: survivor, overcomer, giver, servant, encourager, influencer…or victim. Which one do you like best?