This is Part 2 of a 4-part series on Opening Toward God: our part in letting God work. Go here to read the intro and find links to the additional posts.
My kids play this crazy “Rolling Game” with their daddy. He rolls over the bed, back and forth, and they try to jump over him. Sometimes they make it. Sometimes he catches them and squishes them on the mattress. Then come my son’s piercing shrieks and tears that tell me Daddy caught him, at a level that seriously makes me want to rip my hair out. And then my husband says, “You can get out. You’re not stuck.” He makes him worm his way out while I inwardly beg, “Please let him go, for the love of my sanity.” The kids always get free and my husband claims they are learning good things. No doubt. Now let me go find a silent place for a week or two, thank you.
I tend to get irritated quickly when I see people living with a victim mentality. People who act like they’re stuck and there’s nothing they can do to get out. Yet I know I feel irritation because it’s one of my weaknesses, and I don’t like seeing it reflected in others.
“The primary source of feeling like a victim is the feeling of powerlessness, and because we don’t like feeling that we are powerless, we tend to blame someone or something for causing that feeling.” Any time that I merge into the “poor me, mean them” attitude, I’m acting like a victim. “My kids are so stressful. That friend is so irritating. My spouse always does that thing that drives me crazy. Nothing ever goes the way I want it to.” Or it can be turned inward: “I’m terrible at making friends because of my personality. I always lose my cool because of my hormones.”
Sometimes, we don’t even verbalize it. We just feel paralyzed and go into hiding because our situation seems hopeless.
But this isn’t the truth. And it’s a hard, hard way to live. The first time I read Romans 7, I breathed a huge sigh of relief. It’s a section where the strong, bold leader, Paul, catalogs his wrestling with sin. “For I don’t understand what I am doing. For I do not do what I want—instead, I do what I hate.” Powerlessness. Believing that I, as a person, am unable to get through this. Yet like my 4-year-old, who can actually free himself from being squished by his dad, I am capable of escaping victimization.
This is the truth. So how do we walk in it?
Catalog your thoughts
When we think a negative thought, we can grab it, write it down, and evaluate it. See, these victimizing thoughts creep in constantly. They take over our minds before we even realize it. We are up to our knees in muck before we know we’re off the path. Note when you use the words “always” and “never.” Those absolutes often reveal false beliefs.
Sort out the truths and half-truths
Is someone really hurting you? Maybe you are either sweeping that hurt under the rug or wallowing in it without naming it. So recognize it for what it is, name it, and accept that it’s true. Or is your household really nothing but chaos all the time? Maybe there are just a few things about your family and home that bug you, like the noise level between 4 and 6 pm or the dirty clothes covering your bedroom floor and those things overtake everything else that you really do love.
Address what can change
God has given us the will to choose how to think and respond. He doesn’t expect his children to stay victims when he won the victory over our death at such a personal cost. If we are being hurt by someone, it’s not loving them to ignore it or to burn with bitterness toward them. It is loving to address it, both in our own hearts and with them personally if need be. If we are ruled by chaos or frustration, we have power to change our perspective and our habits that need to change.
Trust God with what can’t change
Some hard things in life don’t go away even when we look at the situation differently. We live in a broken world and pain will always exist here. But no matter what our situation, our God is greater. He is holding us in our pain. He daily will give us victory over temptations to complain or fear. Paul faced these kind of hardships himself and wrote this about his experience: “I am content with weaknesses, with insults, with troubles, with persecutions and difficulties for the sake of Christ, for whenever I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10). God gives us the strength to endure anything he allows us to face – so we are far from victim status.
We will be hurt in life. We will be victims at times. But remaining in that place drags us down and sucks us back into our former way of life. As I identify the areas I’m acting like a victim, and make choices to let that thinking go and be strong in the Lord, I’m allowing the Spirit to do his work in making me righteous and holy through the pain and disorder that can come with this life.