I can recall growing up I had a friend who was what society would call a troubled kid. He was always getting into bad situations, and he never seemed to learn from his mistakes. He just kept getting into messes, and when confronted with his behavior he always had a reason. It was his sob story of why his life sucked.
He would lament, “my dad left when I was a kid, and I haven’t felt loved since.”
I could only reply back, “yeah, I totally get it. Mine did too. He actually left me wandering the streets of Los Angeles by myself when I was five.”
So what was the difference between us? I used to think proudly that the difference was he had a victim mentality and I did not. He allowed the pain of his past to give him an excuse to not live for the future whereas I did not! Or did I? The older I got, and the more bad decisions I made in life, the more I realized that I was a victim too.
I think all of us in some way or another have situations that have brought us pain. They vary in degree, but they affect us similarly. Rejection shapes your future, whether you want it to or not, so even if you think you’re handling the pain in a positive way, you might just find yourself wounded. The scars left behind where life has cut you don’t really fade with time. Often times they fester as you make day-to-day decisions guided by the past that hurt you. You may have trouble trusting, committing, or even being honest with yourself.
So while I thought I was better than my friend, and since I wasn’t cutting class or getting arrested, that I obviously had a handle on my pain, my everyday decisions proved otherwise. I frequently made decisions to please others, and I based my own self-worth on others opinions and love for me. I had a victim mentality that caused me to walk through life defeated, and sometimes even unconsciously self-sabotaging my own happiness.
The weird thing for me is that in today’s world a victim mentality is almost celebrated, it’s certainly encouraged, and if we can find cause for our suffering and stamp a label on it then all the better. Instead of believing we’re overcomers and victorious over adversity we roll over and accept the attacks life has piled on top of us. Hey, I’m just as guilty as the next guy because many times it feels good to give name to the reason we make mistakes, or to have a fall-guy for our failures. The truth is that the hurt we receive in life does shape us, and it does impact how we live life. It’s sad, yet true. But just because pain impacts us, that doesn’t mean that it has to define us.
For the longest time a large part of me felt that I was incapable of being loved unconditionally.
I was the kid whose dad left her.
When I was diagnosed with epilepsy, I was the sick kid.
When my husband left me, I was the divorced woman.
I was depressed.
I was addicted.
Yes, bad things happened. Bad things that I could not control, could not change, and could not be blamed for. But here’s what I could control. How to an extent I allowed them to penetrate me and take over my life. I had to realize that I couldn’t allow my past, pain that had been inflicted upon me, or my natural reactions to these things define me. I was a victim in some ways, but that didn’t mean I had to continue to live like one. I couldn’t trudge through life defeated, expecting nothing better was ahead.
Colossians 2:10a (NIV)
and in Christ you have been brought to fullness.
1 John 3:1-2
1 See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2 Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.
I’m not the things that have happened to me, or the decisions I have made. I’m not the pain piled upon me, or how that all made me feel. Yes, it happened. Yes, it affected me. Yes, I have to own up to my mistakes. Yes, there’s lifelong consequences many times. But I am defined by none of it! I am only defined by Christ in me. As a child of God I am forgiven, I am healed, and I am made brand new. I am not a victim,and I won’t walk through life like I am. Will you?
31 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all–how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died–more than that, who was raised to life–is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written:
“For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”[a]
37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[b] neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.