The Definition of Victim.
The unabridged version of the Random House Dictionary of the English Language defines victim, as “a person who suffers from a destructive or injurious action or agency… a person who is deceived or cheated… a victim is misplaced confidence.”
Based on this definition to some degree or another we’ve all been victims. We’ve all suffered at the hands of a cruel and misguided person whether the action is intentional or not, perhaps it was a parent, a teacher, a member of the clergy, a sibling, or other member of our family, or just someone who was close to us.
Maybe the suffering was because we grew up poor, we were confined in an institution, or were disabled, or maybe some past experience affected us so much that we became emotionally impotent.
In life, we sometimes get a bad break or many bad breaks. What we do with these bad breaks makes the difference in the lives we ultimately live. For years, I saw myself as a victim and I believed I was justified. “If you had my life,” I’d moan, “you’d behave the same way, too. And as I saw it, being black, being born into poverty, and having a history of drug addiction and alcoholism, and having had a series of bad relationships, gave me a ready-made excuse to feel sorry for myself, and I milked the attitude all I could, for as long as I could, until the day came when it just no longer worked for me.
While I’d like to say I no longer see myself as a victim, in truth, daily I fight the tendency to hold onto my old ideas, for example, the other day I was sitting in traffic on the freeway and someone cut me off. My initial urge was to give him the finger and shout explicit remarks from my car window, but instead, I honored my second thought and did nothing. I chose the highroad. It has taken years of work for the second thought to become my reality. There was a time when I would have shouted horrible words, then blamed the other person for my behavior: I was a victim of circumstances; had they not done what they did, I would not have done what I did; it wasn’t my fault; they made me do it; and so on.
It’s hard to shift from a mode of thinking we relied on for so long. A matter of thinking that serves us in countless ways. Even though the benefits of letting go of victim mentality outweigh the negatives, there are far too many payoffs to keep us chained to the “it’s not my fault” or “poor me” frame of mind. Here are a few benefits of being a victim. Some render seemingly big payoffs:
- Victims always have someone to blame. When things go wrong, no matter what part you play, if you’re a victim and the outcome is negative, it’s never your fault.
- As a victim, you have permission to be just depressed, and most people will not care enough to expect you to “get on with it.”
- You’ll never be expected to rise above your beginnings and make something of yourself.
- That you won’t be encouraged to “let go and let God” regarding your past, because you just can’t do it.
- No one will ever say, “get off the couch and stop taking drugs, drinking booze, and eating bon bons.”
- You’re in good company. There are far more people seeing themselves as victims who are taking responsibility for their choices. You’ll always fit in with the majority.
- The cycle of victimhood is hard to break, because it’s safe, it’s familiar, and requires little effort to sustain. As a result, it takes willingness, a real willingness to walk through the fear that stands between self-empowerment and a victim consciousness. How do we break the cycle?
One of the quickest ways to shift from an empowered person is by making different and healthier choices. You do that by thinking through your process before you make a final decision. You do it by having the courage to ask questions for clarification and by keeping your eyes and ears open. You do it by thinking through the consequences of your actions. What three actions can you take today that will help you feel more empowered?