Saturday, May 9, 2015

The Security Blanket of Victimhood

I marvel at how often I meet people in their 70’s who still harbor ill will towards a person or situation from the long distant past. I struggle myself in this way. But when I see how this animosity and resentment stunts one’s growth, and how it continues to haunt folks into their later years, I am more and more convicted that I don’t want to be “that guy.”

For the sake of illustration, let’s take an example that I run into quite frequently. Let’s say that we were not the "golden-child" growing up, and our parents showed favoritism to a sibling who, in all appearances, could do no wrong. We did not deserve to be on the losing end of our parents’ favoritism; it was simply the result of a dysfunctional family dynamic.

Many folks carry the baggage of this, and any number of grievances, around with them well into their 70’s and 80’s. What actually happens then, in this perpetual state of victimhood to the past, is that we often transpose our victimhood onto someone else: an outworking of pent up and un-dealt with victimhood! Those around us who have never hurt us must now bear the brunt of becoming victims of our victimhood!

Ironic, isn’t it, that, as victims of someone else’s past sin, we react and perhaps retaliate by living in sins of our own? But the old cliché, “two wrongs don’t make a right” stands true. Stubbornly refusing to release our grip on the security blanket of victimhood by preferring to lick our human-inflicted wounds with the balm of a sin of our choosing doesn’t make sense. But people do just that: they give themselves license to sin every day because someone, somewhere along the way, wronged them.

Jesus frees us from all of that. He replaces our earthly father with God (Matthew 23:9), and our earthly family with the Body of Christ (Matthew 12:50, Luke 8:21, Romans 8:15, Ephesians 1:5).

We as Christians have no excuse to go on living in retaliation against our upbringing, our past or the people in it. That is exactly what Satan wants: to keep us stifled in the wounds wrought by others so that we can never break free and find entrance into a new and flourishing life in Christ (Ephesians 6:12, Matthew 28:18, 2 Corinthians 4:4, Ephesians 2:1-3).

People will often push back defensively about their victimhood and say,

“You don’t know what it was like living with so and so” or “You don’t know what I’ve been through.”

And they’re right. Not only I, but no person on earth can ever know what anyone's life was or currently is like. Only One can know that, and He is the Triune God of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. And since He alone can know our heart and life, then He alone is the one who can set it right.

We can stay on the bus of victimhood, but we remain there alone. Those who may have contributed to or even caused our problems in the first place are no longer on the bus. And if they are still on the bus with us, continuing to cause us harm, do we really want to stay on the bus with them?

The joke’s on us if we think the people who’ve hurt us will ever realize it, repent of it or see it as sin (if they do, great. But we ought not to sit around waiting for it).

Jesus can take all of that away and end the cycle. But victimhood is much like a pacifier that a mature adult has to pry out of a child’s mouth. We have grown accustomed to and, in a weird way, comforted by our victimhood. Victimhood becomes almost a physical entity in our life, like an actual friend. It becomes an identity.

We panic when we envision coming out of it, or EGADS!, forgiving (even if that forgiveness takes place only in our mental and emotional assent, and between us and God). It can be alarming to think of letting go of past injustices: where will we put our energies and what will our excuse be for not progressing in life if we don’t have someone or something to blame for keeping us down?

When we release the past we now have no excuse to stagnate. We have no one to blame. Christ holds us accountable to begin the race He sets out before us. We don’t listen to our own voice, or voices of earthly parents, siblings, teachers or congregation members, we now listen to Christ. And Christ will never hurt us, so there will never again be a place for victimhood in our lives.

Wow. That is a lot to give up: past, present and future victimhood. Gone. Forever. Freeing us to live accountable to Christ. 

It might be initially painful to live without victimhood to suck on. We may feel ungrounded until we learn to plant our feet firmly in Christ. But in time, the consistency and stability we find in Christ, not to mention the confidence we find in His standing (not in how we measure up to ourselves or others) is ultimate freedom.

Christ will take our victimhood and get rid of it once and for all. The question is, are we ready to allow Him to create a pure heart in us and grant us a willing spirit (Psalm 51:10, 12)? If not, we have nobody but ourselves to blame. Our victimhood is now of our own, not someone else’s, making.

copyright Barb Harwood

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Ephesians 6:12

“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.” Philippians 3:12

“Dear friends, I urge you, as aliens and strangers in the world, to abstain from sinful desires, which war against your soul.” 1 Peter 2:11

“We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. The man who says, ‘I know him,’ but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But if anyone obeys his word, God’s love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.” 1 John 2:3-6

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