One of the biggest mistakes in my life was buying the idea that I was a victim. If I can teach you just one important lesson in life to prepare you to be a man, it is that being a victim is not noble, honourable, healthy, or productive. It is the most toxic and wasteful frame of mind that you can possibly buy into. And, unfortunately, it is also one that our culture is selling non-stop these days.
A Victim believes that he has no control over his life or his emotions. That something outside of himself decides whether he succeeds or fails, and whether or not he can be happy. Because they believe that they have no control over their lives, they often don’t even bother to try to make their lives better – they just hope (or demand) that someone else fix it for them.
You can usually spot Victim thinking because of key ideas that come with it. I’m going to list a few of the biggest ones so that you can spot them for yourself in the future.
- “I’m cursed! I have terrible luck!”
- “We are being oppressed by the Man! He keeps people like us down, because he doesn’t want to share power!”
- “You have to watch what you say or do because you might trigger someone else’s bad feelings and past trauma.”
- “When you use that saying you are committing a micro-aggression. You have no idea how alienating that is!”
- “You have privilege, and you can’t even see it! You have no idea what it is like to really struggle.“
- “You have no idea what it is like to suffer and be oppressed.”
- “You freedom of speech ends where my feelings begin.”
- “I can’t believe what a lousy mark/bonus the teacher/boss gave me!”
- “There just aren’t any jobs out there!”
- “I am the 99%, and the rich need to pay their fair share!”
- “It’s not racism to hate Whites/Jews, because they have all the power!”
- “If you run a business, you didn’t make that; somebody else helped you make that!”
- “What they did to me will leave scars that will never heal. I will never be the same.”
I am sad to say that half of those are phrases that come from the popular political movements and ideas of the day.
Right now, the world is caught up in victim fever! We offer so much support, good will, fame, political power, and free money and support to people that we see as “helpless victims” (somehow not seeing the irony of that), that everyone seems to want to take on a victim identity for themselves.
The truth is, however, that no one is helpless, and no one but a young child is perfectly innocent in the bad things that happen in their lives.
When toxic people set out to abuse someone they are trying to fill their Empty Places, and so they look for someone who looks like they will cooperate in letting them play out whatever drama they need to play out. Bullies look for shy and timid loners – that way their target probably won’t fight back and won’t call up a bunch of friends to get revenge. Abusive wives look for men who try to hard to please the women around them, because they will likely accept that whatever she did it was “all his fault.” Bad bosses hire people who act desperate for the job so that those people won’t complain or quit when the boss acts like an abusive jerk.
I learned this the hard way: I was bullied terribly in Junior High School. My Bullies wanted someone who wouldn’t want to hurt them, and would try to talk them out of bullying him – that way they could imagine themselves beating up their abusive parents while they hit me, and like their parents, the bullies could laugh when I begged them to stop. In my case it got very, very bad before I figured out that I was giving them exactly what they wanted. And because of that, I have to accept that I have at least some of the responsibility for the painful experiences I had.
Once we reach a certain level of maturity, there is always something we can do about every situation. We can fight back against abusers, we can tell off lousy adults and teachers, we can file complaints. No matter how bad things are we always have an option, even if that option is to just walk away.
And that is true of opportunities as well. If there are no jobs, you can always start a business. If there is not enough money, you can always find some good or service to sell, or you can always borrow (so long as you are willing to bust your ass to pay it back.
Sometimes getting out of a bad situation is tough. The hard work you need to do can seem overwhelming. That is when the Victim mindset can be at its most insidiously appealing. If you just declare that you are a victim and don’t have a chance at being happy, succeeding, or getting better, then you don’t have to do the hard work. If you are lucky and complain loud enough, you might even be able to get someone else to take care of you! It can be easier accepting being miserable and helpless than doing things to make your situation better. Some people would rather be miserable on easy street than working hard to be happy.
But the psychological toll of playing the victim is beyond measure! I have missed out on friendships, on success in jobs, and on many years of happiness because I let myself slip into that mindset. There were times in my twenties when I badly strained my relationship with your mother, and times when I lost big opportunities because I was wallowing in self-pity. And I never will again!
I love you son, and that means I won’t let you accept anything short of being genuinely happy.