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Victims Untie!

March 26, 2019

Hi.  I’m Steve.

Hi Steve.

I’m a victim.  It’s been 5 minutes since I acted like a victim…

That’s what a Victims Anonymous meeting would sound like for me.

I’m a recovering victim.  Like all people in recovery, I have forward movement and victories, and I have setbacks (what is called relapse in the recovery world).  It’s a dance that usually goes, “Three steps forward, two steps back.”  I call it the Recovery Rumba.

I’m sharing this because I know I’m not the only one who is (or should be) in recovery from being a victim.  As with other more recognized addictions, there are many in the throes of victim-addiction who don’t know they’re addicted.  The intensity of it isn’t strong enough yet to get in their way too much.  Or it’s all they’ve ever experienced, so they think it’s normal.  There are others who know they’re addicted, but are in denial about it because they still love their addiction and addictive behaviors, or because their shame is so strong they feel they can’t move in any direction but farther into the addiction cycle.

I want to think about Victim-Addiction observationally.  That means we’ll look at it without being judgmental – of others or of ourselves.  This will be hard for some people.  It’s kind of an acquired skill.  But you can do it. I’ll use a few questions.

First observational question: Are you a Victim?

Some people are.  There are victims of crimes.  Not just petty crimes; some people have been victimized by unimaginable and unspeakable evil.  There are victims of natural disasters, like floods, tornadoes, hurricanes.  There are victims of war.  Innocent people who were simply in the path of military aggression and violence, but who wanted to have nothing to do with it.  They simply couldn’t get out of its way.  There really are legitimate victims.  God has a universe of compassion for them.  As followers of Jesus, we can’t pretend these legitimate victims don’t exist and aren’t something we need to think about or act on.  Go read the parable of the Good Samaritan.  The question is, “Are you an actual victim?”

Second observational question: Who victimized you?

In my life, and in my experience in ministry and counseling over the last four-plus decades (wow… I feel old), more people are victimized by the consequences their own choices than consequences from someone else’s choices.  I’m certainly in this group.  I’m guessing most of you are, too, at least to some extent.  And it’s about this group that I want us to do most of our thinking.

Third observational question: When was the last time you were victimized – or felt victimized?  Think it through and identify it.  Big, little, or a disappointment or offense somewhere in between.

One last observational question: How often to you talk to yourself using victim language?

You have to know what I mean by “victim language” to be able to answer that one.  It’s not very complicated, really.  Victim language is always some form of, “Why did this happen to me?  I don’t  deserve this.”  It always eventually leads (and sometimes quickly leads) to “Poor me.  Poor, pitiful me.  Nobody gets how bad this is for me.”

I suppose there may be someone who never uses this kind of language in their self-talk (the things they tell themselves), but I’ve never met them.  I’ve known some people who have learned how to hear themselves telling themselves these kind of things quickly and then tell that voice to shut up, but I’ve really never known anybody who doesn’t occasionally say these things to themselves.  I’ve already admitted to you that I’m in recovery (with routine relapses) from this.

So WHAT DO YOU DO TO ABOUT BEING A VICTIM?  Believe it or not, the traditional 12 Steps of Recovery are a powerful tool for recovering from being and acting like a victim.  Here’s a link to my favorite way of working the 12 Steps, Celebrate Recovery:

Step One: We admitted we were powerless over our addictions and compulsive behaviors, that our lives had become unmanageable.

That’s an ugly realization for most of us.  Powerless?  Unmanageable?  Dude!  I’m not that bad off.  And besides, it’s just how I am.  Take it or leave it.  I’m a sensitive soul, that’s all.

Well, sensitive though you may be, if you’re letting your self-talk take you down the path of victim language, you’re holding yourself back on virtually every level of your life.  So let’s get specific about how you can move away from this.

Victim thinking and language in our internal, mental dialogue with ourselves is a habit.  The nature of habits is that the longer one has had a habit, the more difficult it is to break or change it.  Most people who have the habit of victim language and thinking have had this habit for a LONG time.  For some of us, it started when we were preschoolers, back when we couldn’t help but pick up the habits and patterns of our parents and family members.  Nobody meant to build this habit of thought into us.  We sure didn’t mean to pick it up!  But that doesn’t matter.  We got what we got.  Nobody can go back in time and undo or redo that.

If you’re like me, and your victim mentality was an unintentional bequeath from your family of origin, you’ve got a very big challenge ahead, if you want to break the habit of victim thinking.  And admitting you have a problem here is the first step.  Literally.

As with all addictions, having this awakened awareness is the start, but very far from the whole thing.  Even having a strong desire to change isn’t the key.  You won’t change without it, but it’s not THE key.  There is no one thing.  But there’s not 30 things, either.  In fact, for lots of people, making it too complicated will make it impossible to work.  I won’t take time and keystrokes to try to give you everything you need to move forward meaningfully through a process of recovery from victim thinking and acting.  I will say, though, that the 12 Steps I’ve referenced are incredibly helpful.  If you go to the Celebrate Recovery website I offered a few paragraphs ago, you’ll see that each of these steps are connected to scripture.  Which leads me to my next-to-the-last thought on this.

Nobody wants you to move out of the victim life more than God does.  I think one way to describe the Gospel is that it is God’s design to transform us from victims to victors.  It may not (in my experience, it’s not likely to) happen in an instant.  More likely, it will take time and effort .  But it will happen.  Not because of your hard work and dedication.  Not even because of your sincerity.  It will happen because of the grace of Jesus, and all that He’s already done.  We get to partner with Him and walk toward freedom and maturity in Him.  This is huge.  When the Creator of the Universe is walking with you as your partner, that’s big.  Don’t minimize it.

And now, the last thought on this.  One essential key to breaking a long-standing habit is to notice when you’re slipping into it, and choose another path.  The earlier you realize you’re slipping into it, the better.  For most of us, along with God’s partnership through the Holy Spirit, we need the help of a trusted friend to raise a flag when they see or hear us acting and talking like a victim.  None of us needs another behavior cop in our lives, but all of us can benefit by the help of a friend we know well enough to know that they won’t hurt us when we fail, but will ask us, instead, how they can help us not make that mistake again.  For me, this is the essence of accountability.  None of the many people I know who have made the journey of recovery successful have done it on their own.  They’ve all had accountability people in their lives.

Replacing these victim thoughts is essential.  You can’t just say, “I won’t think or act like a victim.”  JUST is the operative word there.  You’ve got to decide (and tell yourself often) that you will not think or act like a victim.  But you’ve also got to know what you will do instead.

Here’s what I suggest as the best way to do that: accept responsibility for what is yours.  If it’s not yours, it’s not yours.  You’re not responsible.  So don’t tie yourself to it.  But if it’s yours, then own it.  The route out of victimhood is responsibility.  At it’s heart, this victimhood I’ve been going on and on about is the belief that someone or something else is responsible for what’s happening in my life.  Letting this habit continue will only keep you held hostage by victim thinking and behaving.

So untie yourself from it.  If you thought what I have for the title of this installment was a typo – that I meant to type with Victims Unite – well, it wasn’t a typo.  I want victims (me at the head of the line) to untie from the habits that keep pulling us down and holding us back.  So victims, untie!

From → Marriage, Parenting

One Comment
  1. Rose Ann Dunson permalink


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