Years ago, sitting in home economics class, I first heard the word victim with regards to sexual assault. It bothered me then and it bothers me now. We are taught to use terms like “a victim of …” So a person might be a victim of sexual assault, a victim of domestic violence, a victim of …
That victim mentality is taught everywhere, but I’m not sure why. I mean, I don’t know why anyone thinks we need to be taught to be victims! Welcome to Day Nine of 30 Days to Forgiveness!
It’s actually very easy to play the victim. The damsel in distress doesn’t have to do a lot of work, she just sits back and waits for her knight in shining armour to come and rescue her. Nurturing our victim status makes us feel righteous and gives us justification for holding on to our grudges.
No one needs to teach us that. For most of us, victimhood is the default reaction when something bad happens.
It’s much easier to blame someone else and make it their fault. It doesn’t matter if it actually is their fault or not, does it? I remember seeing a t-shirt once that said, “I know it’s not your fault, but I’m going to blame you anyway.”
Stop laughing – you’ve probably done it at least once. I know I have.
Playing the victim does something very important. It lets us sit back and react instead of proactively taking control and responsibility for our thoughts and feelings. We aren’t causing those terrible feelings – THAT terrible person is.
One thing that I tell my children often, and it confuses some people, is that no one can truly “make” you feel any emotion. At our home, no one is allowed to get away with saying “You’re making me angry!” No, the truth is that you are choosing to be angry and just blaming someone else.
And once you are able to face that you, and only you, have ultimate control over how you are feeling, amazing things happen.
This victim mentality comes with a heavy price tag. What you give up is your independence and happiness. Ouch. That’s a lot to give up.
Many people hurt me in the past. Those who know pieces of my story are aware that there is a lot of hurt and pain, and a lot to forgive. In fact, it tends to shock people who think they know me and then they hear more of my story. With all that has already been taken from me, why would I ever want to give up control of even more?
Isn’t it time to take back control of your own feelings and your own life?
The first step is forgiveness. (You knew I was going to say that, right?) When you give someone forgiveness for a wrong done to you, you take an important step towards taking control. It doesn’t matter if the wrong was actual or imagined.
Forgiveness doesn’t mean you condone what happened or that you forget what they did, as we’ve talked about before.
It doesn’t necessarily mean that you will love the person or that you’ll even choose to interact with them in the future (although, if you choose to, you can know do it wisely).
It simply means that you make the decisions for yourself that it’s time to let things go and move on.
Forgiveness means taking control of your own future and destiny – or more importantly, removing that control from someone who may not even realize that they are controlling you.
A while ago, I spoke with someone who had run into a friend of her ex-husband. My friend was shocked because, thirty years after a brief teenage marriage, the man still hates her for having ruined his life. She had almost entirely forgotten about that short but sad episode and she was completely horrified to realize that his anger towards her, nurtured over the decades, was affecting his daily life. Even if she had been a horrible person and had caused all of their problems, why would anyone want to let an event decades ago ruin their present life?
When you forgive, you make room for the fun, happy and exciting things ahead.
Let me make this very clear – you can’t choose to be happy and invite positive experiences into your life while you’re busy plotting revenge and harboring anger. Instead of living a full life, you’ll end up sitting in a lonely apartment, ruining your own life while the person you hate so much is living well.
You cannot take control AND play victim at the same time.
Yes, when bad things happen, and when someone has “spitefully used you”, it’s quite normal to feel angry. And quite honestly, angry is better than depression. If anger pushes you out of depression, that’s a good thing, but don’t stay there. If you get stuck in your anger, you’ll never move forward.