Thinking like a victim is easy to do. Becoming a professional victim takes more work, but it can happen, especially if you’ve experienced repeated hurt for an extended period. And even though you are suffering, the Lord is calling you to a better life, a victorious one.
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Let’s call her Mable. It doesn’t matter who she is. I’m not writing about a specific person, though I could be writing about all of us. Everyone has played the “victim card” once or twice.
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 attitude is not just an American problem; it’s a condition of being born in Adam (Romans 3:23). Ever since sin entered the world, we all have been affected in deceptive ways (Romans 5:12; Jeremiah 17:9). One of the primary adverse effects of sin is an attitude that we deserve better than what life has provided.
I’m not suggesting that you assume the role of a morbid fatalist, that person who must resign themselves to a “woe is me” worldview. That kind of implication leaves the individual always looking at the floor while living in a twisted fear of the next bad thing that is going to happen to them.
This perplexing problem is not about resignation, but about stepping up to the biblical reality that God is in control of all things. Some folks have popularized the “doing better than I deserve” mantra and it’s catchy and kinda cliché, but it’s also true if you’re a Christian.
If God is your King, you are doing much better than you deserve, even though it does not mean that 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
Buying the Deception
A 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). We succumb to the temptation 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). There are some challenging, God-imposed realities in our lives.
This truth is painful for the person with a victim worldview to accept. They have fully bought into the, “I deserve better than what I am getting” attitude, which is an impossible standard in a cursed world (Genesis 3:7-15).
If victimization takes a dominating role in your mind, you will be set up for ongoing and unending relational conflict. And if you’re unyielding in your stance, 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.” Their stubbornness leaves those who try to care for them in a hopeless and helpless place.
Anyone who gets within their sphere will be critiqued, judged, and sentenced according to the victim’s self-imposed standards. Their worldview says that “You’re not meeting my expectations, desires, and preferences, and you’re going to pay for what you did to me.”
Heart Check Time
I’m curious. Who have you been thinking about thus far? When you consider the “victims” in your world, who comes to your mind first? If it is not you, it is possible that you may be on the road to becoming a professional victim. No, I’m not trying to trick you but 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
One of the fundamental characteristics of the professional victim is that she cannot see herself as being one. If something is wrong in her world, it is always outside of herself. She does not think of herself first, but on what others have done to her.
The first person you should think about is you. I’m not saying you’re a victim, but you must always address your log before you go speck fishing. To think otherwise is to deny what Jesus asked you to do: judge yourself before you judge others, which is one of those rare moments where you must put yourself before others (Philippians 2:3-4).
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
The humble Christian realizes where God found her, and her heart is full of gratitude for His intervention into her life. She understands who the biggest sinner was, as she rejoices in her new identity in Christ (1 Timothy 1:15-16).
The possibility of “victim-centeredness” is why I recanted by saying that I’m writing about me. At times, I can act the part of the professional victim. And while I could talk to you at length about many professional victims whom 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 that goes by where I don’t succumb to the role of the victim. It can be as simple as sitting at a busy intersection that is not allowing me to have my way.
It happens most often with my wife. Because she is like me–a fellow sinner–there are always possibilities for us to misunderstand, miscommunicate, and miscalculate each other. When these “mis-events” happen in our marriage, I’m at the intersection of life. What will I choose? How will I respond to my spouse?
- Will I choose to walk with the humble, realizing the redemptive opportunity that is before me?
- Will I choose the path of the proud, demanding my self-imposed and self-defined rights?
The simplest way to assess yourself to see if you’re victim-centered is by recounting those moments when your responses to disappointment slipped up on you. I’m talking about being surprised by something that entered into your world unannounced.
Recently, I started our vehicle and heard the engine struggling to turn over. I went to my appointment, and afterward, I started it up again. It was even more sluggish than it was earlier. It caused an immediate alteration of my day. It did not matter what I wanted to do.
The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps. – Proverbs 16:9
My day was not supposed to go this way. This micro-event was a picture of many events in my life. Change happens all the time, and some of those things are more disappointing than others.
Big Warning Here
An evil 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.
The Anger Spectrum
And the frustration of it all is that they never realize how it was self-imposed, choosing instead to see their disappointment as something that someone did to them rather of what God wants to do through them.
They are looking outwardly, blaming someone else for what is wrong. All the while, these individuals incarcerate themselves to a life of miserable victimization. I want you to slowly and carefully read this passage from Hebrews 3:7-15 to see how this can happen to you.
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 this section of scripture in nine logical steps.
- Verse 7 – What you see and how you see will determine what happens next.
- Verse 8 – A test came into your life.
- Verse 8 – You responded sinfully to the test.
- Verse 10 – A wrong response puts you in opposition to God.
- Verse 11 – This reaction keeps you from the very thing you long for, which is rest.
- Verse 12 – The root cause of this is an unbelieving heart. You’re not willing to trust God through the test.
- Verse 13 – In due process, you harden your heart because of the deceptiveness of sin.
- Verse 14 – There is a challenge with your relationship with Christ, and you compromise it.
- Verse 15 – The question becomes, “Can you see what God sees and will you change your mind?”
Caring for the Professional Victim
There is a strong possibility a victim will read here and not see what I am saying. It will happen. The professional victim will read and may even give mental assent to some of the truths.
What they won’t do is fall on their knees and pray for God’s mercy. They won’t see themselves as the hard-hearted person who needs God’s gracious forgiveness more than their desire to hold on to unforgiveness for what others have done to them.
They won’t see that what they have done to Christ is exponentially worse–to the 10th power–than all the horrible, real, objective, and painful things that have happened to them. The result is that they “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
I said can’t on purpose. They can’t show mercy on the person who has disappointed them. This truth is the frustrating part of the Hebrews’ passage: their heart is hard to the point where they cannot perceive the right biblical response.
Where does this leave you? Here is my primary point: how do you love, care for, and help the “professional victim”? Here are twelve thoughts in no particular order.
Sphere of Responsibility
- Their hurt is not only legitimate, but it’s real to God. People and life circumstances have hurt them. Be sensitive. Be careful. Be delicate. Weep with them (Romans 12:15). Care for them with tears (John 11:35; 1 Thessalonians 5:14).
- Ask the Father to give you insight into how to help them (John 17:17). You need wisdom. You need God’s intervention in your life.
- Remember they can’t see what you see. Like a baby bird in a nest with skin stretching over their eyes. They cannot see. You show mercy to them (Romans 2:4).
- Pray for God to do for them what you can’t do (Proverbs 21:1). More than likely you will be “condemned” by them if you do something and you will be condemned if you don’t. Regardless of what you do, you will eventually feel their critique.
- Remember they are not rejecting you, but they are rejecting God. This issue is between them and God most of all (1 Samuel 8:7). Don’t take it personally. It is not about you primarily.
- Don’t engage them to win an argument. You won’t win. You’re playing by two sets of rules, theirs and yours. Competitive arguing will become confusing, and there will be more hurt if you try to engage, thinking reasoning will work.
- Guard your heart against sinning back at them. They are caught in sin and need your restorative care, not your frustration (Galatians 6:1).
- You can’t help them the way they need help. God will have to penetrate their heart to bring the required change (1 Corinthians 3:5-6). Do not take on the role of a mini-messiah. Your job is to water and plant the best that you can and trust God to bring change (2 Timothy 2:24-25).
- There is a part of them that does not want to get better. Sometimes a person’s misery becomes a twisted form of security, that keeps the person from coming out of their prison of hurt because they assume they will be hurt again. It’s akin to an institutionalized convict.
- Their mind has been captivated by sin, to the point where there is a stronghold that has them trapped.
- 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 for them and pray for you. This situation is more significant than what you can accomplish. This relationship is a God-job. Cooperate with Him, not against Him (James 4:6).
Also published on Medium.