The Age of the Victim
It was somewhat of a surreal experience. Within the same town and within the same week, public marches were conducted to highlight victimization. The first demonstration taking place in Washington D.C., known as the “Million Woman March” sought to shine a public light on the plight of women. While marchers took to the streets for various reasons, national media primarily focused on celebrity participants, whose profanity laced tirades poured vitriol on any who dared disagree. The old chant of “my body, my choice” filled the air as the most vocal “victims” declared that no one would take away their “right” to end a pregnancy. One week later, a different set of marchers filled the streets of the nation’s capital calling attention not to their own needs, but the victimization of unborn babies killed through abortion. Who was the true victim?
Historians may well dub the twenty-first century as the “Age of the Victim.” Politicians, media personalities and pop culture icons stand ready to take up the banner of any cause where one has been victimized at the hands of another. Anti-bullying campaigns fill schools across the land, young ladies are taught to report any real or perceived inappropriate advance by males, undocumented workers are vaunted by a cadre of voices seeking their protection and betterment, and on the list could go. Is this to say that all efforts to highlight victimization are fraudulent and unnecessary? Absolutely not! Real victimization does occur and real action is needed. The danger, however, is that “over-victimization” creates a mindset that any wrong done to an individual must be dealt with…loudly; it teaches that anyone who disturbs personal tranquility should be treated with severity. This, of course, stands in total opposition to God’s teaching.
The Lord does not desire followers who view themselves as victims. To this end, He explains how His people are to deal with those who mistreat them: “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’ To the contrary, ‘if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head’” (Romans 12:19-20). Jesus spoke the same message in laying the foundation for His kingdom: ”But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:44-45). Why would the Lord command such action that seems opposed to the “natural reaction” to persecution?
1. A victim mentality encourages focus on self. As Jesus explained what was required for citizenship in His kingdom, He stated, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Matthew 16:24). The spirit of victimization fights against the teachings of the Lord; it encourages one to focus inwardly and concentrate on all the wrongs, whether real or perceived, committed by others. It desires personal justice, so that no one “will get away with” the wrongs that have been committed.
2. A victim mentality discourages consideration of others. In the passages cited above, the Lord calls on the abused to return good for evil. Such a spirit has an uncanny way of attracting attention and effecting positive change. The apostle Peter wrote: “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed” I Peter 3:15-16 NKJV). While it is no guarantee that an abuser will be put to shame, the godly spirit of one being abused may bring a reevaluation of both attitude and action.
3. A victim mentality creates weakness of spirit. The teachings of Jesus illustrate that others may abuse, yet this should never weaken spiritual strength. In perhaps His best known teaching on the subject, Jesus said, “But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also” (Matthew 5:39). The amount of inner strength necessary for this lack of retaliation comes only through one’s relationship with the Lord; it is the self-discipline that very much could strike back, but chooses not to do so. A spirit of victimization often brings one to focus solely on striking back, thus leading away from the strength found in trusting Christ’s words on the matter.
4. A victim mentality leads one away from a Christ-like spirit. If anyone could have claimed victimhood, it was Jesus Christ. Rejected, slandered, beaten, and killed, He had the purest of motives and intentions, but was met with the vilest of actions. As His murderers mocked Him, He prayed for them. As they sought to end His life, He died to give them life eternal. He illustrated the ultimate spirit of self-control and love for others; in doing so, He set the perfect example for those who would follow.
With the above said, it should again be noted that real victims do, in fact, exist. It should also be established that those who suffer at the hands of others have legal protections in place. An abused wife may certainly use the powers of the land in her defense, and a child terrorized by other children can call this to the attention of school personnel so that appropriate action can be taken. In every case, however, the welfare of the victimizer should also be considered. As Jesus, the one who is victimized should carry out actions for the overall good of the “enemy” who may be inflicting harm.
What ultimately should be understood is that the spirit of Christ must prevail in every situation. For those who have been conditioned to be victims, this mentality must be left behind so that the strength of the Savior can be seen in personal actions. For those who enable victimhood, a change of course must be undertaken to teach spiritual strength rather than a spirit of weakness. For those who are truly victims, an understanding that this may be a “test by fire” is essential. Such a situation may be a test to strengthen one’s spiritual stamina. For all, there should be a spirit to aid those in difficult straits. As Jesus showed love for mankind through His action, so, too, should mankind show strength and comfort for those who are oppressed. Though historians will likely not record it, may this be the “Age of Christ” for those who diligently seek Him.