Monday, February 4, 2008

A Victim No More

A Victim No More ©
by Debbie Guinn

Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us .” Romans 8:37

WordNet® 3.0 defines a victim as “an unfortunate person who suffers from some adverse circumstance.” I think that definition pretty much defines all of us. I know it does me. In fact, based on that definition, I have been a “victim” many, many times throughout my life. In fact, just this week, I fell victim to a heater that decided not to work, leaving me very c-c-c-cold.

Fortunately, I did not stay a “victim” for very long, in this situation. I checked to make sure the heat was on, checked the breaker box, and then called the property management company to report the problem. Later that day, a man was here to fix my heater and we were blessed with heat before nightfall. (We were also blessed with above normal temperatures that day and plenty of sunshine to warm up the house until the repairman arrived.)

However, I have not always handled being a victim as well as I did this time. Many times, more than I would like to admit, I have allowed adverse circumstances to defeat me, plunging me into self-pity, hopelessness, and despair. “Past experience” convinced me that I was a weak and powerless victim who could not do anything about my circumstances and I simply had to lie down and take it. While there is truth to the fact that I had been a true victim at times, I was holding on to those past events, allowing them to dictate who I was and how I reacted to new situations. I had become stuck in “victim mode” – living as a victim, long after the situation had passed when I was, in reality, no longer a victim.

Victim mode is a dangerous place to live. It makes me vulnerable to continued victimization because I accept and even expect to be victimized. I am an easily recognized target by would be victimizers. I might as well wear a big sign around my neck that says “KICK ME!”

When I see myself as a victim, and continue living as a victim, I will soon develop a victim mentality. Victim mentality is when a person blames everything “bad” on somebody else. It's always somebody else's fault and, therefore, I have no power to do anything about it or change my circumstances – even my life as a whole. That results in my thinking, “life will always be bad and there is absolutely nothing I can do to make it better.” Victim mentality is worse than the occasional pity party. It is a non-stop, never ending state of self-pity that offers no hope of a bright future.

It is a very hopeless state because I remain stuck in my past, unable to move forward. It is a place of bondage with no hope of ever finding the freedom that Christ offers ( Luke 4:18 , Galatians 5:1 ). I cannot grasp or receive His love ( Psalm 103 , Ephesians 3:17-19 , 1 John 3:1 , 1 John 4:9 ), nor can I experience the abundant life He came to give me ( John 10:10).

So, why would I, or any Christian, who knows that God's plans for us are for prosperity and not harm, for a hope and a future ( Jeremiah 29:11 ), continue to live in the hopeless state of victim mentality? I knew that Christ came to heal the broken hearted and set the captives free ( Isaiah 61:1-3 ). I knew He came to give me an abundant life ( John 10:10 ) and that He wants me to walk in freedom ( Galatians 5:1 ). I knew that those old things were past and ALL things were made new because of my relationship in Christ ( 2 Corinthians 5:17 ). So, why did I continue to live as a victim for so many years?

I have identified three things that kept me locked in that victim mode. The main thing is what I talked about in my article last month. I had a faulty belief system and was believing lies from the enemy as opposed to the truth of God. You see, I “knew” – intellectually – that God's plans were for prosperity; that He offered me hope for a wonderful future. I knew – intellectually – that He wanted me to have an abundant life and to walk in the freedom and victory of my new life in Christ . However, I didn't really BELIEVE those things. I couldn't because my mind was so full of the lies that I believed that there was no room for the truth. I believed that I was worthless, unloved and unlovable. I believed that my purpose in life was to be used and abused by others. I believed that I was a victim and always would be.

The second thing that kept me living as a victim was fear. Fear really goes along with believing lies from the enemy. Fear is NOT from God ( 2 Timothy 1:7 ), so therefore, it must come from the enemy, who is the father of lies ( John 8:44 ). Satan kept me living as a victim, through fear, by believing lies such as “It's safer being a victim. If I try to step up and stop people from victimizing me, I'll just get hurt even worse. It's just better to let happen what's going to happen. Besides, I know what to expect as a victim. In addition, people feel sorry for me as a victim. If I'm no longer a victim, they won't have any reason to love me anymore.”

That kind of thinking may sound silly. In fact, it sounds somewhat ridiculous to me, now that I have learned and BELIEVE the truth. However, when a person is trapped in victim mode, with a faulty belief system, we believe those lies that tell us we are better off as a victim and that creates a HUGE level of fear of leaving the victim mode behind and living as a victor.

The third thing that kept me living as a victim was unforgiveness. Quite simply, as long as I harbored unforgiveness towards those I viewed as responsible for my victimization, I was unable to move out of that victim mode. Unforgiveness leads to resentment and resentment leads to blame. Blame and resentment ALWAYS leave a person feeling like a victim.

In his In Touch Daily Devotionals (3/17/05) , Charles Stanley says, “When we refuse to release our unforgiveness, we can expect to go through a series of painful steps. First, we will have difficulty dealing with the wrong done to us. If we choose to forgive at this point, we can skip many of the remaining steps. But if we cling to resentment, bitterness will take root, and we'll begin to experience defeat in relationships, emotions, attitudes, and even in our physical body.”

This was so true for me. I felt defeated in every area of my life. One day, I got tired of being a victim. More than that, I was tired of living as a victim. I decided that I wanted to discover and live the free, full, abundant and hopeFUL life that God promised and Christ came to give me. In Romans 8:35 , Paul asks, “ Who shall separate us from the love of Christ ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?" He gives us such a clear answer to that question in verse 37 , when he says, “ Yet in ALL these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us”. I realized that I did NOT have to live as a victim. I was MORE than a conqueror through Christ !!!

It wasn't easy to break out of that victim mode – I had lived there for many, many years. It took a lot of prayer and perseverance for me to get out and stay out of that victim mode. I didn't just suddenly start living as the “conqueror” that Paul said I was – just because I decided that's how I wanted to live. I had to make some changes in my life. I had to work through those things that had kept me locked in that state for so long.

The first thing I did was…well I “did” something about it. I took action. I started standing up for myself, saying “no” and refusing to be walked over. I quit blaming others for all of my problems and started taking responsibility not only for my actions, but more importantly my REACTIONS to things that happened to me. That was really hard for me – mainly because I still believed so many lies. So, I fell back into victim mode many, many times along the way.

The real victory came when I started replacing those lies with the truth. It was impossible for me to accept and believe the truth when my mind was full of lies. I could not fully accept and believe the truth that God offers until I identified, disputed and exposed those lies as LIES, and then replaced them with the truth from God's Word. This meant digging into God's Word and seeing what HE had to say about me, about others, and about Himself. Once I firmly believed the truth, I was able to see myself the way God sees me – as a victor and not a victim. I saw firsthand what Jesus meant when he said “ You will know the truth and the truth will set you free .” ( John 8:32 )

The second thing that I did was deal with my unforgiveness towards those who I had resented for “ruining my life”. I realized that I was hurting not only myself, with my unforgiveness, but also those (such as my children, friends, and co-workers) who had to put up with my victim mentality that stemmed from my unforgiveness. More than that, it was affecting my relationship with God. Forgiveness was critical! Not only did I need to forgive as part of getting out of the victim mode, but I also needed to forgive in order to restore fellowship with Christ and others. Most of us are familiar with Matthew 6:9-13 where Christ gives us a model on how to pray. We love that passage and many of us can quote it by memory. However, how many of us know what the next two verses say? In verse 12, Christ tells us we need to forgive. Forgiveness is so important – and NOT an option – that He goes on in verses 14-15 to tell us “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. BUT if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

I'm sure many of you would like to stop reading about now…we don't like to talk about forgiveness and simply do not want to believe that God would honestly deny us His forgiveness, if we refuse to forgive others. However, that IS what Jesus says….isn't it?

I would like to share some things that I have learned about forgiveness that may help you work through this area. Forgiveness is something that takes place in your heart – for your own healing. Forgiveness sets YOU free from the chains that you have put around YOURSELF by harboring bitterness, anger, malice towards the person(s) who hurt you. Often times, we think we are making the other person pay when we refuse to forgive them. The truth is that we are usually the only one who suffers.

I think it is important to look at what forgiveness is NOT. It is not an act or statement acknowledging the other person's innocence or letting them off the hook. If I wasn't wronged, then I wouldn't have any reason to forgive. If there is need to forgive, then it means I WAS wronged. I love what John and Stasi Eldridge say about forgiveness in their book Captivating . “If your forgiveness does not visit the emotional core of your life, it will be incomplete. We acknowledge that it hurt, that it mattered, and we choose to extend forgiveness to…all those who hurt us. This is not saying it didn't really matter. It is not saying I probably deserved part of it anyway. Forgiveness says “It WAS wrong, VERY wrong. It mattered, it hurt me deeply, and I release you. I give you to God.”

WOW!! Did you catch all of that? Understanding what forgiveness is and is NOT – and then choosing to forgive – was a powerful step for me to move from victim to victor.

Once I replaced the lies with truth and forgave those who had “victimized” me, the next thing I did was to begin to look at ALL those past circumstances and events – as well as my present ones – as opportunities for God to mold me into the person He purposed me to be ( 2 Corinthians 4:16-17 ; James 1:2-4,12 ; 1 Peter 5:10 ) AND to bring glory and honor to Christ ( Romans 8:17-18 ; 1 Peter 1:6-7 , 4:12-13 ). That has not always been an easy thing for me to do. For years, I resented God for allowing me to be a victim. But, as I opened my heart up to see His hand in everything – truly believing that He loves me and wants ONLY what is best for me – I was able to let go of that resentment and trust that God will use (and IS using) ALL of the trials and suffering that I have gone through (and will go through in the future) for His glory. While not everything I go through in life SEEMS good in MY eyes, I have learned that I can trust God to cause all things to work together for good” ( Romans 8:28 ).

Joseph , son of Jacob , is a good example of a “victim” turned “victor”. Genesis 37 tells the story of how Joseph 's brothers sold him into slavery. I'd say that definitely qualifies Joseph as a victim. Genesis 39 tells how Joseph was thrown into prison after refusing the seduction of Potiphar's wife. Once again, we see Joseph being victimized. However, never do we read that Joseph hung on to thoughts of being worthless or powerless. Never do we see Joseph living in defeat or feeling sorry for himself. Instead, we see Joseph continue to trust in God, using the gift of interpreting dreams – the very gift that was the final straw that led to his brothers getting rid of him. Joseph found favor not only with God, but also with those in charge, excelling both as a slave and again as a prisoner.

We see evidence of Joseph 's forgiveness towards his brothers in Genesis 45:5 when he tells them not to be distressed or angry with themselves, and again in verse 15 of the same chapter when he kisses and weeps over them. After Jacob died, Joseph 's brothers were concerned that Joseph would turn against them. However, Joseph relieves their fears in Genesis 50:19, 21 . “But Joseph said to them, "Don't be afraid. Am I in the place of God?…So then, don't be afraid. I will provide for you and your children." And he reassured them and spoke kindly to them.”

Throughout chapters 37 through 50 (of Genesis), we also see God's hand on Joseph , protecting him and also, using the very situations where he was victimized to preserve the Jewish nations and bring glory to God. I love what Joseph says to his brothers in Genesis 50:20. “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.”

Where are you today? Are you living as a victim or a victor? If you are living as a victim, I pray that you will take the steps necessary to move from victim to victor.

I encourage you to go back to last month's article “Out With the Old…In With the Truth” and work through that exercise of replacing the lies with the truth. It is a powerful process that will give you such victory as you discover that the truth really does set you free.

I also encourage you to ask God to show you if you are harboring any unforgiveness and resentment towards those who have hurt you. If so, ask Him to help you to forgive those people. You cannot live in victory, and will continue to live as a victim, as long as you have unforgiveness in your heart.

Finally, I encourage you to ask God to help you see all of the painful experiences of your past, present, and future as part of His work in your life, bringing glory and honor to Him. I have written in more detail, some truths that God has taught me about this subject, in “Joy in the Furnace” in the November issue of this magazine.

In closing, I'd like to share one final thought that God has been teaching me the last several months. If we never had battles (trials, suffering, etc.), we'd never experience victory. In other words, the only way to experience the “thrill of victory” is to fight in the battle. Jesus tells us in John 16:33 , that we WILL have trials in this world….BUT (He goes on to say) that HE has overcome the world. We should expect, therefore, to have trials, resulting in battles to fight. However, we cannot fight alone and unprotected. We must do as Paul tells us, in Ephesians 6:13-18 , and take up our armors, DAILY. Only when we are protected by His salvation, HIS truth, HIS righteousness; place our faith in HIM and ONLY Him; apply HIS Word; and spend time with Him (in prayer), will we be able to stand in victory and go forth in peace.

We are His children. Therefore, we don't have to live as victims. We are more than conquerors in Him…we are victors!

Pressing in to Him,


Originally printed in HeartBeat the Magazine, Healing the Wounded Heart, February 2008.

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