Victim? or Victor?
Choosing the Mind-set of an Overcomer
in a World of Pain and Loss
Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world. 1 John 4:4
God created mankind with the ability to experience both pleasure and pain. Today, we journey through a world cursed by the fall. Because of these facts, each of us faces two paradoxes throughout the journey of life.
1. Being made in the image of God we have the ability to experience wonderful godly emotions. We also each have the fallen nature of Adam and experience the spectrum of negative thoughts and feelings that vexed Adam after the fall. We can choose between the two.
2. We live in a beautiful world that displays God’s creativity and order that surpasses our comprehension. We also observe and have experiences in a world marred and scarred by sin. We can choose to focus on either the beauty or the scars.
Since our feelings follow our thought patterns, these paradoxes can produce a turmoil of feelings within us that we do not always understand. These emotions may perplex us and yet we must choose to relate to them throughout our lifetime.
This is because God has also given us a will. Each of us is a soul that lives in a natural body, whose mind (thinking) interfaces with a natural brain. God has created us to live in this temporary arrangement for a lifetime. But the choices we make while in this temporary world will affect us for eternity.
This little writing is intended to address our temptation to self-pity or to separate ourselves from our emotional pain when we believe we are being treated unfairly in life. It cannot address all the unfair situations we face, nor how we should help others with their attitudes when treated unfairly.
Understanding the Terms
We will first examine the differences in these two mind-sets. The most natural mind-set a person gravitates toward is the Victim mentality. The following section is an abbreviation of a testimony of a man tempted with victimhood mentality.
I grew up with a victim mentality. By Akos Balogh
“Nobody called it that at the time. But as I look back, that’s what it was. You see, I was a refugee from communist Eastern Europe—from Hungary. I grew up among other refugees, among victims: victims of an oppressive totalitarian regime; victims who saw loved ones imprisoned and killed; victims for whom fleeing their homeland was often the only option left. Now not for a moment do I want to minimize the suffering of my fellow (Hungarian) refugees. Their pain was real. We were the victims. And the nations around us—Russians, Romanians, Serbs, Slovaks—they were the oppressors. We were innocent. They were guilty.
Victim Mentality Comes to the West
“But now I’m seeing the victim mentality go mainstream here in the West. . .But I am concerned about the adoption of a victim mentality: a mentality that—like a drug—makes you feel good for a while, but then sucks the life out of you.
“So, let’s explore this victim mentality, and why it’s so bad for people.
What Is a Victim Mentality?
“While there is no formal psychological definition of a victim mentality, a useful working definition is as follows:
“If you have a victim mentality, you will see your entire life through a perspective that things constantly happen ‘to’ you. Victimization is thus a combination of seeing most things in life as negative, beyond your control, and as something you should be given sympathy for experiencing as you ‘deserve’ better. At its heart, a victim mentality is actually a way to avoid taking any responsibility for yourself or your life. By believing you have no power then you don’t have to take action.
“In other words, any bad thing in your life is the fault of other people. They’re the ones that are bad, wrong or dumb, and you are good, right and brilliant. Other people do bad or stupid things, and you suffer as a result.
A Crucial Distinction: Being a Victim vs. Victim Mentality
“Before we go any further, let’s make a crucial distinction: there is such a thing as an innocent victim. Such a person suffers (exclusively) because of another person’s sin. People can be innocent victims. We can suffer unjust evil at the hands of others. But we need to beware of moving from being an innocent victim, to adopting a victim mentality. And in the case of other victims, we should affirm the reality of their suffering (and as we have opportunity, address it). But we do them a grave disservice if we promote in them a victim mentality.”
Another influence that sociologists have observed is how much our modern culture has shifted away from a Dignity and Honor Culture to Victim Culture. This happened in only a few decades. There was a time when society would have despised those who felt like they needed to advertise their losses and disappointments. In our day, those who can tell an impressive story of deprivation or hardship are held up, honored, or even given financial reparations.
This transition may be observed in many ways such as:
• Lawsuit varieties and the amount of financial remuneration to victims
• The way psychologists relate to people with emotional challenges. (For examples in documentation see “Manufacturing Victims – What the Psychology Industry is Doing to People” by Dr. Tana Dineen
• The popular clothing and personal appearance of society in general.
The trends in our culture have a way of bleeding into the church. This is not only in fashion, but in our mental processes. Truly we must be on guard at the worldly patterns of thinking.
From another source, a comparison between victim and victor mentality.
So, victim or victor? There’s a simple difference. The victim feels like things happen to them on purpose, that they have little or even no control over them, and that it is always everyone else’s fault.
The victor feels like they can use a skill or develop an attitude or behavior that will improve their position. They feel like they are in control of, and responsible for, their own feelings, and that they can undertake a variety of actions to avoid or manage the difficulties in their life.
What does the Bible Say? How Should we Receive Hurts and Losses?
The Bible does not address this subject by using modern secular terms. But it does address the subject by comparing the choices people make who are tenderly cared for but also grievously chastised by a heavenly Father. Similar to chastisement is the pain that people go through simply by living in a world marked by the presence of sin. The Bible example of Job shows us people may suffer deeply and it is no fault of their own. Please keep in mind that the word from which “chasten” is translated means more than corporal punishment. It includes all the work that parents pour into children to help them grow to maturity.
Red = rejecting chastisement. Green = accepting chastening. Blue = God chastening His children.
5. And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him: 6. For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.
7. If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? 8. But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons. 9. Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? 10. For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness. 11. Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.
12. Wherefore lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees; 13. And make straight paths for your feet, lest that which is lame be turned out of the way; but let it rather be healed.
14. Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord: 15. Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled; 16. Lest there be any fornicator, or profane person, as Esau, who for one morsel of meat sold his birthright. 17. For ye know how that afterward, when he would have inherited the blessing, he was rejected: for he found no place of repentance, though he sought it carefully with tears. Hebrews 12:5-17
Now let’s consider the diagram which is an attempt to illustrate the fatherly chastisement that is described in this passage.
There are several facts that are universal.
1. Each of us has a fallen human nature and commits immature acts. We also are placed into a fallen world, some tragically marred.
2. We each have a loving heavenly Father who loves and receives us.
3. Our nature and actions call for our heavenly Father to grow us through chastening (training) and/or stressful challenges so we can more deeply connect with Him.
4. It is also true that not every difficulty or abuse people suffer from is because they have been evil. But it is true there is a heavenly Father who desires to walk with them through their pain to deeper relationship and service
v7 speaks of those who “endure” or stay under chastening. For those God “dealeth” - a word that means “to lead to one who can heal or show kindness”. In v8 The KJV says some are “without chastisement.” It is natural to think that some do not receive punishment from God. However, the word “without” in the Greek text literally means, are “at a space”, or “separated from”. That’s why the verse begins with “but”. The verse goes on to say, “whereof all are partakers”. This means that every human being will experience challenges to grow from his loving Heavenly Father. Some by choice separate themselves from this loving Hand that desires to lead them and do not receive benefit. Others attempt to disconnect from the pain, through various methods. Perhaps they choose some mind-altering drug or some other method of escape. In secular psychology, we have the term RAD or Reactive Attachment Disorder. Some children make it very obvious they are detached from their parents. If we choose this course in our relationship with our Heavenly Father, we will be losers in time and in eternity.
For those who see their Father’s loving care in the difficulties of life, they will choose to give God reverence (a turning about) and it will bring profit (a bringing together of them and God).
But for those who look at the hurts of life outside of the context of a Father in Heaven who treasures them, they will either: 1. Despise (pass off or laugh off) what they have gone through; or 2. Faint (give up or take a “poor me” attitude).
The “faint” mentality is the beginning of a “victim mentality”. The Bible calls this a “bastard” response, a term given to those who were born of a concubine or of a slave.
The verses go on to lay out the downward path of a person who sees himself as receiving random acts of pain or unfair treatment. He senses no connection to the God who made him, and the multitude of blessings he enjoys every day, but rather sees himself as a person who is buffeted by unfair circumstances or people. In this condition he cannot receive God’s grace in his life. Grace is “divine assistance in achieving regeneration, sanctification and glorification”. Another definition of grace is “the power of God to accomplish the will of God.” If a person alienates himself from God’s supply of grace, then he surely has a miserable journey through life.
This course includes partaking of the root of bitterness, which in turn drives him to become vulnerable to impurity (fornication) or secular attractions (profane). In the end he finds himself rejected (disproved and repudiated) and outside repentance.
The Diverging Paths of Victim and Victor
The following is a chart of comparison to aid us in identifying the path we are choosing.
Victim (Entitled) Victor (Indebted)
Attitude Life is not fair.
I have been treated unjustly. I am not worthy of the least of these blessings
Thoughts How can I be repaid? How can I bless others?
Countenance Grieved, a fallen countenance Cheerful, expressing the fruit of the Spirit
Words Complaining, blaming others, Whining about one’s lot Thankful, complimentary, blessing others
ships Contentious, making withdrawals Companionship, making investments of time and love
Emotional health Self-pity generates depression Gratitude generates sound emotional health
Faults and sins Readily confesses other’s sins and mistakes Humbly acknowledges his own sins and faults
Future Dark and bitter Hopeful
Departure Not desired Genuinely mourned
Eternity Victim with Satan’s demons In Eternal Victory
How Can We Obtain the Victor Mindset?
1. Come in Brokenness to God, Confessing Sinfulness/Selfishness and Ask God to Change your Heart.
This change of mindset is not enlisting the power of positive thinking. The Bible speaks of conversion as coming to genuine sorrow over our own sinfulness and selfishness and experiencing genuine repentance. When we come in humility God will give us a new heart, something we can never do for ourselves. As mentioned earlier, His grace is divine assistance for regeneration, a supernatural power not available from any other source.
Ponder these verses from Paul’s writings. Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.
Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God. For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. 2 Corinthians 5:17-21
There is a miracle that happens in conversion. When we ask Jesus to save us from our sin, He also works to save us from our selfishness. Instead of focusing on other’s faults, we see ourselves as being the biggest source of evil. Then, in turn we become ministers of reconciliation to those who may have wronged us. It is impossible for someone who is dwelling on the hurts that others have brought into their lives to minister to the needs of others.
There are those who learn how to make surface change to stop destructive thought patterns. A counselor may be able to help you replace your defeatist attitude to one of empowerment by helping you focus on positive things. But Christ wants you to go so much further than that. He wants us to be ministers of reconciliation. We can carry out that ministry only by having genuine forgiveness and true love in our hearts for those who may have wronged us.
2. Accept that the Bible Makes Us Responsible for our Attitudes
From the example of Cain and then Esau down through the closing chapters of the New Testament (Diotrephes) mankind has been challenged to take responsibility for personal thought processes. That’s because attitudes lead to actions. There are no examples of Bible characters who had selfish attitudes and made right choices.
Jesus was victimized more than any other person in the Bible. Did He spend time feeling sorry for Himself? Did He curse his enemies? Where did Jesus receive the power to love the ones who cruelly put him to death? Hebrews tells us He did it by focusing on the “joy that was set before him.” We are invited to have that same vision.
His teaching for us is that we should regard any unfair treatment we receive as an opportunity to show God’s grace to the offender. We should ask God to show us what He wants us to learn so we can be better stewards of His grace in His kingdom. That is what Jesus chose to do while he was being falsely accused and persecuted. He understood He was here to be a servant in God’s program of reconciling sinners to Himself. He knew there was a larger purpose for His suffering, even as there is purpose in our suffering if we choose to see it so.
Jesus’ gospel makes forgiveness a key element of our relationship with Him. One of the words translated “forgive” in Jesus’ teaching is the same word translated, “put away” in the context of sending away a wife with the intent of divorce (Matt 1:19). This is a good way to consider the hurt we have received, either from events or from the actions of other people.
We may not dwell on or resent (re+feel) our hurts and disappointments over again. If we do, we will lose our salvation. Jesus gave this teaching very clearly after he taught His disciples the Lord’s prayer. “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors...” in the prayer is expanded after the prayer to “If ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” Matthew 6:14-15. In the parable of the man who was forgiven a great debt but had the debt again placed on is account when he did not forgive a fellow servant Jesus makes it very plain that an attitude or a grudge can cause us to forfeit our own salvation (Matthew 18:23-25).
3. Choose to View Life through the Lens of Gratitude
We have many things to be thankful for. Also, we know this life is a test that will for the faithful, give way to the great rewards of life with Christ in eternity. Paul tells us not to look at the natural things but at the things that are eternal. “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory.” 2 Cor 4:17 “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” 1 Thes 5:18 In other words, the little temporary trials of this life are working together to help us keep our eyes fixed on eternal blessings.
Furthermore, we are taught that “all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose”. Rom 8:28 While in a painful, chastisement we should go on a “treasure hunt” to look for the good in difficult experiences in our lives. God has designed these experiences for our good. When we look for the good, we can see what God desired to teach us through the experience. Remember Joseph’s journey? “But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.” Gen 50:20
Gratitude generates an emotional resource for the storms and tests of life. Feeling sorry for oneself is one of the leading causes for depression. Many people never make the connection between their feelings of today and the thought patterns they chose two or three weeks ago. But the connection is there. Gratitude gives an emotional bank account that will not be overdrawn quickly.
“When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” 1 Cor. 13:11 When we choose a mature view of life, God will bless us with His grace, so we come through the trials He lovingly sends us with praise to His Name.
H. Stephen Ebersole