Bridging the Divided

Victim Or Survivor

Victim mentality. What is it? Simply put, those with a victim mentality blame others for the way their lives turn out. “It’s not my fault.” You don’t know what happened to me.” “I can’t.” Life is a series of choices. We choose to be victims or survivors. No one is born with a victim mentality. 

Every once in a while we see stories of survivors who have overcome horrendous acts of evil. Despite the hardships they face every moment of every day, they choose not to be victims. People who are horribly disfigured from accidents, fires, or the ravages of war inspire others to stay positive in the midst of tragedy. Others choose to feel persecuted and powerless in light of their personal tragedies. 

No one gets through life without navigating the waters of at least one damaging or tragic situation. Most of us face several damaging situations throughout our lifetime. How we react determines which mentality will emerge: victim or survivor. When blindsided by a tragedy like the loss of a child, a serious illness or accident, or even the loss of a job, I think it normal and natural to sit back for a time and lick our wounds, so to speak. We need time to assess, to process, to grieve, to figure out life going forward, etc. and then we choose to rise as a survivor or wallow in self-pity. 

Wallowing in self-pity may seem like a harsh judgment, but is it? Self-pity is a choice. John 5 (The Complete Jewish Bible) tells the story of a paralyzed man at the Pool of Bethesda, “After this, there was a Judean festival; and Yeshua (Jesus) went up to Yerushalayim (Jerusalem). In Yerushalayim, by the Sheep Gate, is a pool called in Aramaic, Beit-Zata, in which lay a crowd of invalids — blind, lame, crippled. One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. Yeshua, seeing this man and knowing that he had been there a long time, said to him, ‘Do you want to be healed?’ The sick man answered, ‘I have no one to put me in the pool when the water is disturbed; and while I’m trying to get there, someone goes in ahead of me.’ Yeshua said to him, ‘Get up, pick up your mat and walk!’ Immediately the man was healed, and he picked up his mat and walked.” 

What would your answer have been if you were the man who had lain by the pool for 38 years? One would think his answer would have been a resounding “YES!”, but it was not. Rather, the man chose to complain that he had no one to help him, someone always got in ahead of him. The Bible doesn’t say, but it is likely the man stopped trying, if he ever did, yet remained by the pool day after day. Why? Likely, because he received pity and attention from others thus validating he was indeed a victim of his circumstances.

Transitioning from victim mentality to survivor isn’t easy. We must first recognize the victim mentality in ourselves. Then, and only then, can we begin the work of transitioning. We must understand that we have choices in life, and choosing to be a survivor is one of them. The difference between victims and survivors is that victims are at odds with life, survivors embrace life. Survivors also live in the moment, the present, choosing not to relive the past or worry about being victimized in the future. 

Survivors who have been victims of abuse or other atrocities, forgive their abusers. Unforgiveness breeds bitterness, it never hurts the abuser, only the abused. Anyone who has been victimized by others feels as though their lives spun out of control, and indeed they did, but we are capable of moving into the driver’s seat and reclaiming control. 

Would have, should have, could have are the thoughts and words of those stuck in victim mentality. We must forgive ourselves for letting ourselves be victimized by others. Repeating positive self-affirmations helps us internalize survivor truth – that we are deserving of good things in life, to be treated with respect, to love ourselves. 

Victim and survivor mentalities are patterns in our lives. Which pattern do you see in your life? Damaging situations and tragedies will always be part of journeys on planet earth. Choose to be a survivor…..

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