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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
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.”
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.
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?
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.
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.
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