Victim Mentality :: by Sherell Lee

Question: Riots, abortion, child abuse, domestic abuse, thefts, and murder; what do all of these things have in common?  Answer: The sense of entitlement on the part of the person committing the wrong that gives him or her permission to act.  In each case—due to some twisted way of thinking—the person committing the crime feels justified and entitled to behave that way.

Usually such an attitude springs from a mindset I call the “victim mentality.” This is the mindset that rationalizes bad behavior or excuses the lack of good behavior, because the person perceives that at someone, sometime “did them wrong.” And he is therefore now justified in acting any way he pleases to anyone he pleases—due to a perceived debt owed to him for his suffering. Someone did him wrong, and someone is going to pay.

The bottom line with victim mentality is that it wrongly gives the individual an excuse to act out, fail, and blame someone else for all of it.  Not only that, but because he feels victimized he rationalizes that he deserve to have everyone else rescue him from his own bad choices. He feels he deserves a free pass in life, and that the rules that apply to everyone else—don’t apply to him.

This way of thinking provides a strong motivation for a person to stay a victim and to never recover from real or perceived victimization. He never has to face the fear of trying to meet the standards held for everyone else, never has to recover, and never ever has to face the risk of failure.  He never has to be responsible for his own life. (Whatever happens to him it is someone else’s fault.)

He expects someone else, some rescuer, to bail him out, pay the rent, or deliver him from whatever situation he has gotten himself into this time. He asks for and gets pity and support of various kinds from family and society who are enmeshed in the process of being rescuers, and don’t realize his irresponsible actions are a form of vengeance.

People get hooked into trying to rescue the professional victim for various reasons.

Sometimes it’s guilt because they feel they are among the persons who hurt or failed the “victim.”  Parents are famous for this, and often bend over backwards to try to make up for some perceived failing on their part.  They often suspend any rules or expectations, which, if you think of it is a very insulting and hurtful thing to do to a child.

Such guilt payoffs set the child up for failure and confrontation with authorities that will exact a consequence for bad behavior. (That is why the Bible states that a parent who won’t discipline a child sets them up for death, Proverbs 23:13.)  Sincere loving parents eventually realize the hurt they are doing by not requiring their children live up to societal expectations.

Sometimes being a rescuer is due to pride. Professional rescuers are the yang to the yin of the professional victim. They often get hooked into back-patting themselves for being the good ones who magnanimously reach out to the wretched, or so they reason. Smarter rescuers eventually wise up to the fact that a person with a victim mentality cannot be rescued, and will in fact employ every defeating behavior in their arsenal to avoid recovery.

Why should he change?  He has a good thing going. Besides it’s enjoyable watching the floundering defeat of those who try to help while acting out with aggressive behavior: Who are you “do-gooders” to think you are better than me, and can fix me?  I’ll show you! he thinks.

Being a victim pays off and can become an entrapping lifestyle that’s hard to escape once a person begins to rationalize, and excuse his failures by his perceived victimization.

The trick for those who sincerely seek to help the unfortunate is to have the discernment to separate real victims from those who have made being a victim a lifestyle strategy. Rescuers entrapped in a rescue-failure loop with a professional victim eventually wise up to the fact that they may be as in need of recovery from rescuing as the professional victim is from the victim mentality mind set.

Now don’t misunderstand. There are real honest-to-goodness victims in society, people who due to no fault of their own are treated unfairly and unjustly, people who have suffered offenses that deserve justice and redress. Many who become “professional victims” start out as real victims.

The breakdown is in how they respond to what has happened to them, whether they feel they have gained the permission to wallow in whatever unfortunate incident they have experienced.

The difference between the two,  real victims and a person playing the victim card, is that the latter one flounders in the real or perceived offense, making it a life script for why they can’t succeed and don’t need to try, why they are exempted from the rules that apply to everyone else,  and why someone else owes them.

The redress due real victims of race, gender, class, status, authority, whatever, is for the offenses to stop, which involves correcting societal systems that permit and perpetuate injustices on others.  The justice to be done involves the current victim and perpetrator. Once both those players have left the field due to death it’s too late.

Crying foul over something that happened to your parents, grandparents, great grandparents, race gender or class, and using that as a reason to live a bitter life, act like a criminal, and be a lifelong failure—is just an excuse to be a ne’er-do-well and wrongly blame someone else for it.  “Woe is me, I am a victim therefore I can’t help myself; and I deserve to mistreat you and society because I was mistreated.  Boohoo.”

I boil with anger against the abusers of others, and want strong justice against the heinous offenders who commit such crimes; but I refuse to give a stamp of approval for social terrorist who inflict suffering on innocents because themselves, someone they know, or didn’t know but with whom they identify, were perceived by them to have been treated unfairly.

The rioters around the country who burn down the business of innocent store owners to supposedly gain justice over the perceived offense of one person against another are wrong, pure and simple. The women who justify abortion because they feel that pregnancy is something that selfish men do to women; and that women are therefore victimized by having to bear an unwanted child are wrong regardless of how that child was conceived, pure and simple.

The thug who steals and kills because he was bullied is wrong, pure and simple. The partner who abuses a spouse because he or she hated an abusive mother or father is wrong, pure and simple. All these scenarios have one thing in common, and that is that a person is choosing to inflict abuse on others to act out an anger and hatred held against someone else for some other reason; and they feel justified in doing so because they consider themselves to have been victimized in some way, and everyone else is fair game for the pay back.

What is the answer against falling into this self-defeating and dysfunctional lifestyle trap? What should a truly victimized person do in response to being mistreated?

First, find a way to stop the victimization. Every circumstance is different regarding how to make this happen; but this is the mandatory first step.  There is no wiggle room for excuses by not doing everything you possibly can to escape abuse. Note: I said possible. Unfortunately escape is not always possible, or not immediately possible; but the victim must never give up trying to escape from victimization. As long as you have breath there is no excuse for giving-up.

Second, forgive. This can be very difficult and can take a long time to accomplish; but like striving to escape victimization, you must never give up working to forgive for your persecutor. Something to keep in mind regarding hate is that as long as you hate or hold bitter feelings toward someone else that person has power over you. If you would be set free at last, then you must forgive at last.

To refuse to forgive is to forever condemn yourself to be a puppet dangling on the strings of your abuser’s harm. Clip the strings. Forgive and set yourself free. Note: this doesn’t mean reconciliation or putting yourself or others back in harm’s way.  It means letting go and letting God deal with the issue. And lastly, don’t forget that whoever you are you will at some time also need to be forgiven.

Third, take responsibility. Man-up as the military would say. Okay, you were victimized. Something terrible happened to you or to someone you love; but now you have to take responsibility for your own life.  This includes not letting residual emotions from that victimization direct your actions down negative paths. You can’t use your abuse as an excuse to fail, to be vengeful, to wallow in depression, to hold a grudge, to hurt others, or to expect others to rescue you and carry your burdens.

In short you have to pull from yourself and your faith in God the strength and power to carry on.  It might be one day at a time, one minute, or even from second to second; but you must take the forward, upward, path that commits to life and personal responsibility.

Being a victim should never be used as an excuse to wound others, be a criminal or a failure, or cast responsibility and blame for your life on others. The Scriptures are clear on this point.  From Genesis through Revelation everyone is held responsible for their own actions. Adam blamed Eve for the fall. Eve blamed the Serpent; but God held each responsible for their actions and each suffered the consequences; consequences that mankind has suffered ever since.

If you have been victimized realize that the decisions you make about your victimization will affect not only you but everyone around you. Choose wisely, and may God guide and empower you to make the right choices.  Amen.

Sharell Lee


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