To some degree, every one of us has been a victim.
We were either neglected by our parents, picked on at school or ripped off in a business deal later in life. When we are healthy, we can learn from those experiences, forgive and move on. But when we’re not, we tend to re-victimize ourselves over and over.
What I mean when I say re-victimize ourselves is we play the “recording” of the event again and again in our minds because it actually gives us some morbid form of comfort.
When we are somebody’s victim, we actually have a little bit of power over them.
Control freaks love to play the victim, for example. If they are victims, they can control the person who hurt them because that person “owes them something now” and they can also control everybody around them by draining sympathy and attention from their community.
I doubt there’s anybody reading this blog who hasn’t done this. I certainly have. In fact, it’s difficult to even realize we are doing it. Playing the victim shows up as complaining or whining about some task we have to do, or having a really negative attitude toward life.
Henry Cloud and John Townsend define a real victim as a person who is completely and utterly powerless. That’s a tough definition, because it means you and I aren’t often victims. We almost always have some power in a situation. If we are a victim to a person, we can move away from them, even though it will cause a great deal of tension. We can quit our jobs, we can create better boundaries, there’s more often than not something we can do. We just don’t want to. We want to remain victims, because truthfully we are getting something out of the role, even if we don’t admit it.
The truth is, though, when we play the victim, we are actually making partial victims of the people around us. (tweet this)
We are using them and manipulating them.
In order to play the victim we need an oppressor. And when we manipulate by playing the victim we turn people who are otherwise innocent (or perfectly human) into a bad person in our minds. Instead of forgiving somebody who has wronged us and moving on, we demonize them in our minds and play them up as a villain so we can be their wounded victim. It’s an unhealthy game.
What is amazing, then, is the person playing the victim is often the real villain. What I mean is, by demonizing others and portraying them as oppressors, they themselves become the oppressors.
But it’s a tough pattern to get out of. For me, it started by learning to turn the other cheek. Forgiving people for their minor transgressions and just “getting over it” is not something a victim does easily. They see “being wronged” as an ATM machine spitting out cash and it’s tough to walk away.
The truth is, though, most victims don’t want to be oppressors themselves and when they realize what they’re doing, they feel awful. They thought they were the weak ones but really they were strong all along.
Not playing the victim will take a lot of practice, but it’s worthy practice. I promise you, playing the victim is holding you back, hurting others and taking needed attention and resources away from real victims, those who are truly oppressed and can’t do anything about it.