Did you know a heart filled compassion can unintentionally enable a victim mentality? Do you realize your eager attempts of making things “right” may actually cause greater “wrongs?”
I see well-meaning brothers and sisters, with a desire to accept and love others, while actually encouraging “victim behavior” in hurting individuals.
Before we look into the symptoms of having a victim mentality, allow me to share a bit about how I’m coming to this perspective.
My husband and I have committed our lives to be involved in full time ministry for over thirty years. Our greatest passion and focus has been to offer hope and healing to hurting individuals. Both within churches and prisons. But our family’s greatest passion is especially to those within the prison system. Why? Because these precious individuals are typically the ones who are hurting the most. Those who have faced years of horrific, unspeakable pain, abuse and loss.
Hurting people are our people.
When you hear awful stories of abusive parents hanging up a young child by their feet to see how long it would take before they pass out, or hundreds of accounts of horrendous sexual abuse that physically made me feel sick, it doesn’t take long to be filled with Christlike compassion for these dear ones. We truly love the broken and hurting. Nothing stirs our hearts and motivates us quite like offering hope and healing to the broken and hurting.
We personally see ourselves and our own struggles in these hurting people.
No, we haven’t experienced the exact things many of these individuals have. But, we’ve experienced many of the same feelings on a variety of different levels.
We know years of pain and loss. We understand intense pain that seems to dominate every aspect of our lives. We recognize the same struggles in each hurting individual as we’ve also struggled with.
We’ve been discriminated against. Not for our race, but for our religious beliefs. We know the battles that accompany a person after you’ve received “blow after blow” in life. We know the questions, anguish, fear and turmoil a person wrestles with, while trying to make sense of life’s unfair twists and turns.
Almost every time we share our personal journey in prison, many inmates will come up to us and say, “I thought I’ve faced a lot of pain in my life, but I haven’t experienced nearly as much as your family has.” We always stop them and explain…“Pain is pain. We should never minimize or place levels on pain. God doesn’t see any of our pain or losses as insignificant. He knows how pain affects us and truly weeps with us.”
What is even more significant than us being able to identify and connect with the pain within an individual’s heart, is being able to lead them to a Father who fully understands and is able to completely HEAL their pain. Over the many years, we’ve been blessed to lead many hurting men and women to a life-saving faith in Jesus. Praise the Lord! There’s nothing more fulfilling in life than this.
So how could a compassionate heart cause harm to an individual?
First, let me emphasize that it is never good to suppress feelings and hide our pain. And it is critically important that our hurting hearts are cared for by others. Another vital step is bringing our pain and brokenness to Jesus. He is the only One who can actually do something to heal our pain. But there is another critical step that is often skipped.
Since we’ve worked with many hurting people over the years, we can detect a victim mentality fairly quickly. Someone with this mindset justifies their own wrong behaviors. They are not looking for healing from their hurts. They are solely focused on retaliation and justifying their hateful actions and attitudes. This type of person will become outraged when forgiveness is ever mentioned.
The step of forgiveness is unpopular. After all, it seems rather insensitive to encourage forgiveness, doesn’t it? Encouraging forgiveness isn’t being insensitive if you understand this fact…A hurting person will never experience true freedom and healing without exercising forgiveness to offenders.
When we justify wrong attitudes and actions of a victim, without giving them tools to overcome, we enable a victim mentality. We don’t need to make light of someone’s pain, but something is wrong when we justify unhealthy reactions. When we tell someone they are a victim, without equipping them to overcome, it becomes unhealthy and extremely damaging to the individual.
I’m not saying we should jump straight into a forgiveness message. I’ve followed social media threads where sexually abused individuals were deeply hurt by individuals encouraging the need of forgiveness. We know this is a sensitive issue and victims need to be compassionately cared for. The church has too often spoken about the need to forgive while being silent about the abuse. This is terribly wrong! But the fact still remains.
We enable a victim mentality if forgiveness is overlooked and not mentioned.
As I’m sure you have discovered, life will never be fair. There will always be people who mistreat us. But we are called to live as overcomers and not victims!
We recognize a victim mentality in others because we’ve struggled with it ourselves.
It has taken us a long time to realize God allows trials and storms to come our way because He’s giving us the opportunity to grow in Him. Maybe instead of questioning and struggling with the pain that we’ve faced, we can choose to become stronger because of our pain.
Christians have the Holy Spirit living within us, yet many of us still remain stuck in bitterness and with a victim mentality. And each time we fail to encourage forgiveness to those around us who are hurting, we create long term victims as well.
We have many Christian inmate heroes. They have experienced an incredible amount of pain but are living as overcomers and choosing to forgive those who have done unimaginable things to them. Yes, the past still affects them, but they are choosing to walk in victory and holiness. And because of overcoming a victim mentality, they are now flourishing Christians.
God has a power-packed anointing for your life. There are times when He wants to ignite you with an extra “charge.” It’s called a thorn in your flesh. Are you willing to allow that “thorn” to become a benefit to you? Or would you rather expend your energy in cursing the “thorn giver?”
The next time your feelings of self pity tell you no one cares, reflect on Gethsemane. When struggling to accept your pain, visualize Jesus carrying your pain while in the garden and on the cross.
While interacting with hurting people, please love and care for them enough to not allow them to stay victims. Love victims enough to help them forgive. Let’s be overcomers. Then equip others in how to walk an over coming life. We cannot exemplify things we ourselves aren’t practicing.
~Cindy (For The Mullett Family)