In this three-part series, we’re looking at the three things we do that victimize ourselves. Today, we look at the second thing that keeps us feeling like we’re a victim of our circumstances.
We aren't able to grasp the difference between fault (or blame) and responsibility.
I was recently enjoying a glass of wine with a group of friends, when one of them shared her struggle of how her daughter had been getting inappropriate pictures texted to her by a boy in her grade. Thankfully, her daughter had confided in her, asking for help, but had also asked her mom not to get involved. This sweet mama was torn. Should she risk losing her daughter’s trust in order to protect her? As we rallied around her, brainstorming solutions, it became evident that this had been going on for some time. Another well-meaning friend asked how it was that this had been going on for so long. You can imagine the mama-bear defense this roused my friend! A thought-provoking (and rather heated) discussion on “victim blaming” pursued.
When we all settled down again, I shared something that’s helped me move from victim to victor when unjustly hurt by others’ bad behavior. Taking responsibility for my reaction to someone’s bad behavior does not mean accepting fault or blame for it.
Taking responsibility for my reaction to someone’s bad behavior
doesn’t mean accepting blame for it.
To be clear, I am not talking about transferring blame or responsibility from a perpetrator to the person they’ve victimized! Thousands of people are victimized daily in this world and do not deserve any blame for another person’s sinful thoughts or behavior. (For example, to suggest that a woman’s clothing makes her somehow partially to blame for her attacker’s behavior is preposterous.) However; we DO have the ability to find healing and freedom by taking responsibility for our response to injury, in order to stop our own mind from continuing the victimization long after the perpetrator has been stopped!
So how do we move from victim to victor?
- Take time to feel your emotions intentionally. It’s completely normal and healthy to feel hurt or angry when someone behaves in a way that invades or offends us. Attempting to bury your emotions will likely just cause them to come out in ways you don’t want later. Left ignored long enough, negative emotions are more likely to explode than erode! This doesn’t mean sulking. Instead, give yourself some grace. Remind yourself that what you’re feeling makes sense and allow yourself to feel it so that you can let it go and move forward, rather than letting it hold you hostage.
- Assess what happened. Praying about the circumstance allows us to ask for help seeing with an unclouded lens. Just because we feel defensive, doesn’t mean the other person intended to offend. In some cases, you may find that a misunderstanding or difference in opinions was at play. Ask God to help you describe what happened in an objective and factual way, so you can find healing and grow.
- Consider your options. It’s tempting to ruminate on the problem, or the actions of the person who’s wronged us and how hurt we are. Because the other person’s thoughts and actions are out of our control, focusing on them keeps us stuck, thinking, “There’s nothing I can do about it.” What we focus on grows, so focus on what is in your control! Do you want to address the problem? Get counsel? Forgive? Advocate for yourself? If a loved one came to you with the same problem, what advice would you give her? What options would you see?
My friend went home feeling empowered that night, ready to arm her daughter with several options. She could block the sender, report him to the school liaison officer, tell him his pictures are gross and to stop sending them, delete them and forget them (knowing that they say much about his character and nothing about hers!), or do nothing. She helped her see that any of these choices were okay, as long as she liked her reason for choosing it.
Taking responsibility for your present circumstance gives the power and control back to the person who should be in charge of them…YOU! And even more importantly, it allows you to take actions which fully align with your values, so you can get back to living the life you were created for!
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