Perspective From a Recovered Victimist

A Fallen World:

Evil lurks in all corners of the globe and expresses itself in many ways. Wars, terrorism, domestic violence, sexual assault, racial injustice, and other hate crimes seem to fill the front-page day after day.

While suffering is inevitable, we do not have to allow past sufferings to keep us in bondage. Life is too short to allow hardships to define us or keep us from growing into what we were made to become.

I do not write this to minimize anyone’s hardships or to suggest that the journey to overcome is a simple one.  Rather I write this to help bring understanding on how we may be able to disassemble one of the most powerful strongholds in our world, the metal roadblock that keeps so many people in bondage.

Overcomers:

As a business owner, and leadership coach with a primary responsibility of helping individuals grow into what they were meant to be, I have had the privileged of sitting across the table from hundreds of individuals over the years. Nothing gives me greater pleasure than to help someone get past their personal roadblocks and discover their purpose in this world.

Over the years I have noticed some distinct common threads that nearly all the most successful people in history possess. The greatest characteristic is that they are overcomers. They all faced many obstacles such as oppression, physical disadvantages, economical disadvantages, and competitive opposition, but somehow pushed through to acquire the place they seemed to be destined to reach.

While there are external forces all around us that wage war against our personal success, I have found that the obstacles we glorify in our heads present the greatest obstacles. The limitations we allow to exist in our own thoughts far outweighs the external circumstances we must overcome. The reason they are so hard to overcome is because we think these ideas are supposed to help us.  They have an appearance of wisdom but have an inverse consequence that keeps us in emotional bondage. We push these buttons harder and more often, and it seems things only get worse. Much like struggling to free yourself from quicksand.

Victimism:

I believe that the greatest roadblock for many in this generation is a victim mentality. I will use the term “Victimism” to describe this state of mind.  A person who embraces victim mentality would be a victimist.  To be clear, there is a difference between a victim and a victimist.  We are all victims of circumstances and evil behavior pointed toward us at times in our lives.  Some far more than others.  Victimists embrace a victim mentality as a defense mechenism. Not all victims are victimists, many are overcomers. Not all victimists are victims, they tend to play the part for personal gain (as I did). Many victims use their experience to become victimists. Victimism comes natural to most people. It is also taught and encouraged by other vicitmists.

The Urban Dictionary says:

“Victimism can similarly be defined as a kind of philosophy whereby one chooses to perpetually see one’s self as a victim of some sort for the purpose of accruing sympathy and empathy. The ultimate purpose of victimism is simply to attain social power, influence, and status by exploiting the well-meaning sympathies and good intentions of the general populace for its social/political support. If one “plays the victim” one can gain power and influence by exploiting the sympathies of the masses.”

Successful people encounter hardship just like everyone else.  Sometimes the hardships make them even stronger. Individuals that have been protected from hardship are ill-equipped for success and find they have not been prepared to go the extra mile. It takes a measure of persistent struggle to develop a finely tuned agent of victory.  The greater the obstacle, the greater the achievement.

Michael Jordan has a ferocious personality that is bent towards overcoming.  The more you tell him he cannot do, the more determined he is to prove you wrong.  There is no victimism in his head. This persistent mindset is common amongst high performing athletes, leaders and top-level performers in any field.

Responibility and Victimism:

Make no mistakes, victimism is not a responsible position to embrace. It is what happens when people run from responsibility.  It fills the gap left behind. Victimism gives you the excuse for why you have not reached a higher level of success.  It allows you to be blameless in your quest for justification. Victimism focuses on the outward circumstances as the determining factor or blame for your own inadiquate status.

I believe victimism is the mindset that keeps people stuck far more than their external circumstances. It is the mindset that keeps us in bondage.

Overcomers will always tell you that they are NOT a victim. They will go to great lengths to make sure they are not perceived as such. They understand that overcoming and victimism are in direct opposition to one other.  Once they experience the freedom of escaping victimism, their eyes are opened and they are able to see their lives and future with more clarity and certainty.  You may be a victim in your mind, but you don’t have to stay that way. You cannot simultaneously be both a victimist and an overcomer.  One requires a fixed mindset, the other a growth mindset.

Principles of an Overcomer:

People who overcome victimism have several mental principles that they have discovered and adopted as their personal mantras for success:

  • Overcomers take 100% responsibility for their lives. They understand that what they achieve is going to depend on their desire to overcome rather than helplessness that comes from obstacles placed in their path by other people.
  • Overcomers have a “No Excuses” mindset. They do not push responsibility onto others as they once did when they were a victimist.  They own up to mistakes, make amends and pay restitution when appropriate.  They are quick to apologize and slow to point fingers or place blame on others.
  • Overcomers are problem solvers – They look forward and focus on solutions, not backwards toward blame. They are looking for resolution, not justification or blamelessness.
  • Overcomers believe that “No one owes me anything”. They are not entitled and do not believe their success depends on anyone else.
  • Overcomers have Appreciation – They appreciate everything they have been given and don’t dwell on whay they have not.
  • Overcomers don’t feel sorry for themselves. They don’t embrace self-pity or try to gain sympathy from others.  Because of this, they have a stronger self-image.
  • Overcomers are not quitters. They do not focus on the suffering. They focus on the outcome that comes through personal perseverance. They expect pain.  It is the cost of success, always.
  • Overcomers don’t have a need to embellish the truth to change people’s perceptions. They thrive on exposing the truth rather than manipulating it for personal gain.
  • Overcomers want to help other people to face their own victimism so they can overcome as well. They have discovered something great and want to share it with the world.
  • Overcomers do not surround themselves with victimists. They surround themselves with overcomers.

I’ve Been There:

In full transparency, I was a victimist for nearly half of my life.  During that time, I didn’t even know that I was.  It was like I had a vail over my eyes. Victimism has been in my family all of my life and I was systematically trained up with this mindset.  I didn’t know any other way. I learned that emotional manipulation as the ultimate survival technique.

As a young adult, I had been hurt and was angry at my parents, and most everyone. Due to a divorce, my mother, younger brother and sister were struggling just like me and I was angry that my siblings were put in this situation at such a young age. Our world had been turned upside down. It seemed like everyone had abandoned us, either physically or emotionally. It felt like that, because I was a victimist. Reality was a bit different, less dramatic. My mind puffed up my plight.

I was a victim in a minor sense, but then I quickly became a victimist. It was easier than growing up and facing responsibility for my own life. It was easy to make someone else responsible for who I have become.  I embraced it and used it as my shield.  It was my mask that kept everyone else from seeing my scars and my ugly wounded heart. With my mask, I didn’t have to grow up. It gave me a free pass by lowering everyone’s expectation of me, including my own. In my mind, I wasn’t to blame for my failures. Victimism didn’t expect anything from me, nor did I.

The Hope:

But, there is hope. Through a time of self-discovery I became face to face with the truth about myself. At 23 years old, I was about to take responsibility for my life for the first time EVER…

To hear the rest of this story please contact me and I would be glad to share how I overcame victimism.  joelsmith123@yahoo.com

It’s Your Choice, But Not Your Rules

Christians, how often do you hear the term “God is on our side” ? As if God is watching over us protecting us on our individual journeys.

I am running into more and more churchgoers who identify as Christians that believe we all have an internal moral compass that we should follow. That if we stay true to this compass, God will bless us. I have heard it described as “staying true to myself”, “being at peace with myself”, or even “following my heart”.

I’m not sure that reflects a biblical worldview.

The Bible says “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” Mat 7:21. This implies that rather than seeking for God to be on our side, maybe we should get on God’s side.

Now I’m not suggesting there’s anything wrong with “staying true to myself”, “being at peace with myself”, or even “following my heart”, however if my internal moral compass is driving or justifying my behavior or ethical positions, I am missing the boat. I am putting myself on the throne.

Our internal moral compass is subjective towards our own personal bias. By nature we are under a curse that leads us to put our selfish needs before others. When everyone’s internal moral compass is conflicting with everyone else is internal compass, chaos ensues.

In the spirit of President Kennedy’s inaugural address, we should ask not what our God can do for us, but what we can do for our God. There’s a word for when we use God as a crutch for self-serving purposes. Religion.

Behaviors that are just and right are not for us to DETERMINE within ourselves, but to DISCOVER outside of ourselves. Just as there is a set of natural universal laws that govern our physical universe, there are also universal laws that govern how we should behave towards one another.

God put you on Earth for a reason, for a purpose. He has given us our identity in his kingdom. We have the choice hold on to our own self-directed identity, justifying ourself buy our own measuring stick, or we can surrender to the creator of our universe. It’s your choice, but not your rules.

Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. Like 9:23-24.

The Truth Shall Set You Free

Truth Matters:

“If a ruler listens to falsehood, all his officials will be wicked.” Prob 29:12

And expanded and more modern context may be:

“If a leader buys into biased, inaccurate or exaggerated information, their followers will be misinformed, causing them and others to stumble.”

Spreading falsehood is a big problem in our world. But possibly a bigger problem is when we believe it. We do not have to believe falsehood. We can anchor ourselves to truth.

We all very in our level of maturity and intuitiveness when it comes to our vulnerability to be convinced of something that is not true. Some are very naive, and some have very well-developed B.S. filters. I encourage you to humbly consider where you might stand on this spectrum.

“Spreading falsehood is a big problem in our world. But possibly a bigger problem is when we believe it”

Wired to be fooled:
We want so badly to believe the things that line up with how we are wired, or what we have experienced. We tend to ignore information that does not line up with our preconceived notions. In short, we want to believe lies that seem to benefit us. It’s part of our sinful nature.

We have seen small groups, big groups, organizations, churches, countries and civilizations become duped by false information and bad ideas. Ideas have consequences.

Our blind spots keep us from discerning perception from reality. Perception is not always reality. Only when you see the actual truth.

There are a couple of natural laws I wish to discuss:

1. The Law of Overcompensation.

This law says basically, when we don’t see the truth of the matter as it really is and allow ourselves to believe an embellished, exaggerated or emotionally charged version of it, the output will be at least as wrong as the input. This causes the problem to continue, and oftentimes to become exacerbated.

Some examples of this in our society are:

  • Fight or Flight,
  • Heroes and Villains
  • Any form of stereotypes
  • Dramatizing for effect
  • Always and Never
  • Emotional manipulation
  • Narcissistic mentality
  • Victim mentality
  • Just follow your heart
  • Justice at all cost
  • Compassion at all cost
  • Racial prejudice (don’t hate me)

2. The Law of Opposing Forces (also Newton’s 3rd)

Like a pendulum that swings back and forth, this law says that opposing forces will always provide resistance leading back towards the norm, or middle ground(true center). One action tends to counter or compensate for another.

Some examples of this in our culture are:

  • The law of probabilities,
  • The law of supply and demand,
  • Checks and balances,
  • Liberal vs. Conservative
  • Justice vs. Compassion
  • The devil’s advocate
  • An eye for an eye
  • The plight of the underdog
  • Truth and consequences
  • Cause and effect
  • Sowing and reaping
  • And of course, Bumper bowling

The first law pushes perception away from centralized truth, like a pendulum being pushed further away from dead center. The second law moves to correct the imbalance.

We Think More is Better:

Unfortunately, many people use the first law to overcompensate for someone’s grenade, by throwing two back at them. Somehow, we think we are going to stop the pendulum from swinging with our extreme or exaggerated counterbalance. That is not how it works. It perpetuates the problem.

I can just see a small child in a swing being pushed from both sides. Parents competing to push harder. How will it ever come to a halt?

I believe that the Bible has a different perspective. Rather than addressing one untruth with a countering untruth, we need to seek Truth in two ways. Biblical truth as well as reality, the way things really are apart from your perception.

  • Not an untruth that we can use for a personal gain.
  • Not an untruth that will justify our actions.
  • Not an untruth that will make us feel better.
  • Not an untruth that will exonerate us.
  • Not an untruth that will remove our guilt.
  • Not an untruth that will give us an appearance of righteousness.
  • Not an untruth that will validate or affirm us.
  • Not an untruth that will validate or affirm other people. Not any untruth.

Sometimes our sinful nature can drive us to do things that we feel are so right and necessary. Emotions can be the biggest deceiver especially when we just follow our heart. Our emotions can tell us what is right is wrong, and what is wrong is right. Emotions can be anchored to truth, but also can be anchored to sin. It is up to you.

“Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
John 8:32

As Americans and especially believers in Jesus Christ, we need to be seekers of the truth. We need to be able to look at the details and unbiased facts of the situation the best that we can. We need to be willing to recognize and remove our blind spots that keep us from being aware of the bigger picture.

My challenge is to all church leaders out there. People are watching you and trusting that you are opinion is more accurate and trustworthy than their own.

Seek justice, seek compassion, but more than anything, seek truth. Be anchored in the Word that is truth.