Let’s call her Amie. It really doesn’t matter who she is. I’m not writing about any specific person. I suppose I’m writing about all of us. It’s so easy for us to play the victim card.
Let me take it back. I’m writing about me. At times I can act the part of the professional victim. The overarching character trait of the victim mentality is a person who is upset, mad, or bothered because they are not getting what they believe they deserve.
This is not just an American idea, but it’s an Adam idea. Ever since sin entered the world by one man, we all have been affected in hard to discern and deceptive ways (Romans 5:12). One of the main negative effects of sin is this attitude we deserve better than what life has doled out to us.
I’m not suggesting you assume the role of a morbid fatalist. The person who must resign herself to a woe is me world view. That kind of implication leaves her always looking at the floor, while living in a twisted fear of the next bad thing which is going to happen to her.
This is not about resignation, but about biblical reality. I know Dave Ramsey, et. al., have popularized the better than I deserve mantra and it’s catchy and kinda cliché. It’s also biblically true if you’re a Christian.
If God is your King, then you are doing much better than you deserve. With that said, this does not mean you’re going to get all the desires of your heart. But isn’t that the rub?
But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. – Hebrews 3:13 (ESV)
Buying the deception
The victim mindset has bought into the deception of the devil–But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die.” (Genesis 3:4, ESV) We don’t want to believe the bad news, but would rather entertain the possibility of having more than what God has promised.
The victim mindset does not want to live in the reality of God’s Word–for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die. (Genesis 2:17, ESV) There are some hard and God-imposed realities in our lives.
This is difficult for a person with a victim world view to accept. They have fully bought into the, “I deserve better than what I am getting” attitude. While that world view is tempting, it’s not possible in a cursed world (Genesis 3:7-15).
If victimization begins to take a dominating role in your mind, you will be setup for ongoing and unending relational conflict. In process of time you will become a professional victim.
The professional victim peers through the lens of, “I am right and you are wrong and my views are non-negotiable.” This leaves those who try to care for the professional victim in a hopeless and helpless place.
Anyone who gets within her sphere of observation will be critiqued, judged, and sentenced according to her standards. Her standards are always some version of, “You’re not meeting my expectations, desires, and preferences. Therefore, you’re going to pay for what you did to me.”
Heart check time
I’m curious. If you’ve read thus far, who have you been thinking about as far as being a victim. If it was not you, then you’re on the road to becoming a professional victim. No, I’m not trying to trick you, but to help you.
Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? – Matthew 7:3 (ESV)
Another controlling characteristic of the professional victim is she cannot judge herself as being wrong. If there is wrong in her world, it is always outside of herself. It is always what others have done to her.
The first person you should have thought about as falling prey to becoming a professional victim is you. To think otherwise is to deny what Jesus asked you to do–judge yourself before you judge others. This is one of those rare biblical moments where you should put yourself before others.
When you’re thinking about any sin, you always begin with a healthy, sobering, and biblical self-assessment. “Only by the grace of God am I any different.” We are to look up at others, not down on them.
The former is the look from the proud heart. The latter is the look from the humble heart. The humble Christian heart realizes she’s not a victim, but a the recipient of God’s kind mercies. She has been born from above.
But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner! – Luke 18:13 (ESV)
She realizes where God found her and her heart is biblically broken because of the gratitude which comes forth from it. She understands who the biggest sinner was, as she rejoices in her new identity in Christ (1 Timothy 1:15-16).
This is why I recanted my opening salvo by saying, “Let me take it back. I’m writing about me. At times I can act the part of the professional victim.” While I could talk to you at length about many professional victims I have met through my counseling career, the one I struggle with the most is me.
Sitting at the intersection
There is hardly a day which goes by where I don’t succumb to the role of the victim. It can be as simple as sitting at a busy intersection which is not allowing me to have my way.
It happens most often with my wife. She is like me–a fellow sinner. This means there is always the possibility of misunderstandings, miscommunications, and other miscalculations.
Each time one of these mis-events happens in our marriage, I’m at the intersection of a choice. What will I choose? How will I respond to my spouse?
- Will I choose to walk with the humble, realizing the redemptive opportunity which is before me?
- Will I choose the path of the proud, demanding my self-imposed and self-defined rights?
This is a big deal and it probably happens more than you realize. The easiest and simplest way to assess yourself is by recounting those moments when your response to disappointment was not premeditated.
I’m talking about being surprised by something which entered into your world unannounced. Just today I started our van and heard the engine struggling to turnover. I went to my counseling appointment and afterward I got into my van and started it up.
It was even more sluggish than this morning. My day was immediately altered. It did not matter what I wanted to do. Either my alternator or my battery were going to take me in a different direction. It was my battery.
The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps. – Proverbs 16:9 (ESV)
I spent the afternoon with a mechanic. My day was not supposed to go this way. This micro-event is a picture of the macro-events of my life. I’ve said in another place, “If I knew what my life was going to be like before I became a Christian, I would not have become a Christian.”
There is a big warning here
A sinful response to disappointment is the beginning of the victim mindset. I honestly don’t think most Christians realize how a simple grumble or criticism is a setup for a life of self-imposed misery.
This is the damnable-ness of it all–they never realize it was self-imposed, but always see their disappointment as something which was done to them.
They are looking out the window, blaming someone else for what is wrong. All the while, they are damning themselves to a life of miserable victimization. I want you to slowly and carefully read this passage from Hebrews 3:7-15 (ESV).
7 Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says, “Today, if you hear his voice, 8 do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the wilderness, 9 where your fathers put me to the test and saw my works 10 for forty years.
Therefore I was provoked with that generation, and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart; they have not known my ways.’ 11 As I swore in my wrath, ‘They shall not enter my rest.’”
12 Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. 13 But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.
14 For we share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. 15 As it is said, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.”
Did you note the seriousness of this passage? Did you feel the warning? Did you see the problem? You could break down the passage in 9 logic steps:
- What you see and how you see will determine what happens next. – verse 7
- A test came into your life. – verse 8
- You responded sinfully to the test. – verse 8
- A wrong response puts you in opposition to God. – verse 10
- This keeps you from the very thing you long for, which is rest. – verse 11
- The root cause of this is an unbelieving heart. You’re not willing to trust God through the test. – verse 12
- In due process, your heart is hardened because of the deceptiveness of sin. – verse 13
- Your relationship with Christ is challenged and compromised. – verse 14
- The question becomes, “Can you see what God sees and will you change your mind?” – verse 15
Caring for the professional victim
There is a strong possibility a victim will read this article and not see what I am saying. In fact, I know it will happen. The professional victim will read this article and may even give mental ascent to some of the truths.
What she won’t do is fall on her knees and pray for God’s mercy. She won’t see herself as the hard-hearted person who needs God’s gracious forgiveness more than her desire to hold on to her un-forgiveness for what others have done to her.
She won’t see what she has done to Christ is exponentially worse to the 10th power more than all the horrible, real, objective, and painful things which have been done to her. She can’t show mercy to others.
And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you? – Matthew 18:33 (ESV)
I said can’t on purpose. She can’t show mercy on the person who has disappointed her. This is the damnableness of the Hebrews’ passage–her heart is hard to the point where she cannot perceive the right biblical response.
Where does this leave you? This brings us to the main point of the article: how do you love, care for, and help the “professional victim”? Here are a few tips and thoughts in no particular order:
- Her hurt is not only real, but it’s real to God. She has been hurt. Be sensitive. Be careful. Be delicate. Weep with her (Romans 12:15). Care for her with tears (John 11:35; 1 Thessalonians 5:14).
- Ask the Father to give you insight into how to help her (John 17:17). You need wisdom. You need God’s intervention into your life.
- Remember she can’t see what you see. Like a baby bird in a nest with skin canvassed covered eyes. She cannot see. You show mercy to her (Romans 2:4).
- Pray for God to do for her what you can’t do (Proverbs 21:1). More than likely you will be damned if you do and damned if you don’t. Regardless of what you do, you will eventually feel her critique.
- Remember she is not rejecting you, but she is rejecting God. This is between her and God most of all (1 Samuel 8:7). Don’t take it personal. This is not about you.
- Don’t engage to win an argument. You won’t win. You’re playing by two sets of rules. Like a rugby team playing a football team. It will become confusing and there will be more hurt if you try to engage, thinking reasoning will work.
- Guard your heart from sinning back at her. She is caught in sin and needs your restorative care, not your frustration (Galatians 6:1).
- You can’t help her the way she needs help. God will have to penetrate her heart to bring the change needed (1 Corinthians 3:5-6). Do not take on the role of a mini-messiah. You water and plant the best you can and trust God to bring change (2 Timothy 2:24-25).
- There is a part of her which does not want to get better. Sometimes a person’s misery becomes a twisted form of security, which keeps the person from coming out of their prison of hurt because she assumes she will be hurt again. It’s akin to an institutionalize convict.
- Her mind has been captivated by sin, to the point where there is a stronghold which has her ensnared. See Battle for the Mind.
- Be sure to surround yourself with people who are wise with biblical sense. If not, you can slip into her vortex of confusion, to the point where you lose your spiritual bearings.
- Pray. Pray for her. Pray for you. This is bigger than what you can accomplish. This is a God-job. Cooperate with Him, not against Him (James 4:6).
Rick Thomas – http://www.rickthomas.net/