Is being a victim a weakness?

Just read a CNN piece on whether or not we should call Huma Abedin a victim or not (Rep. Anthony Weiner’s wife). The author says we ought not to, that only she gets to decide if she is a victim. The author quotes from Laura Munson’s book (This is not the Story You Think it is) and suggests that when one decides to be happy (and to be responsible to find happiness), one stops being a victim.

Seems to me that we ought to differ between being a victim and having a victim mentality.

Huma is a victim of her husband’s behavior. When someone is harmed by the behaviors of others, that person is a victim. Now, a victim commonly has various emotional experiences associated with being helpless to stop harmful behaviors. But, being a victim is not the same thing as being helpless in all things. One may indeed be helpless to stop a car accident or infidelity. But, one is not helpless to decide what they want to do about it.

How do you respond to the word “victim?” Do you hear it as helpless? Completely unable to make choices? Devoid of happiness?

At the end of the article, the author lists several helpful responses to being subjected to harmful behaviors by others (nonviolent that is). Her recommendations are below and besides a few tweaks, I don’t disagree. However, I think she gives the impression that feeling hurt, anger, and confusion are somehow signs of weakness. They are not.

1. Wait to make big decisions

2. Focus on the present moment

3. Create something now

4. Give up on the dream (your personal myth)

5. Look for your truth

6. Choose your own feelings

7. Do not play the victim



Filed under anger, Anxiety, News and politics

6 responses to “Is being a victim a weakness?

  1. I love when you wrote, “One may indeed be helpless to stop a car accident or infidelity. But, one is not helpless to decide what they want to do about it.”

    One of the greatest life lessons we can learn is that we have the power to choose. We can learn to say ‘yes,’ to say ‘no.’ We can learn to set up boundaries, to understand and claim our time for silence and solitude. We can limit our exposure to energy draining people and events. We are able to choose when to serve, and when to establish greater margins.



  2. Karen

    I would think being referred to as a victim just acknowledges the fact that something horrible has happened to you. If you can choose if you are a victim or not, wouldn’t it make you feel like you should have had the ability to prevent the whole thing? Or at least you should have the ability to not let it bother you? It reminds me of people who are dying from cancer and they hear people making comments about other people who survived it “because they were so strong” – making the one dying feel weak.

  3. Scott Knapp

    “Victim” seems to have two meanings in our language: the one who had little to no choice about what was done to him, and the one who chooses to respond poorly to what was done to him after the fact. It doesn’t seem that we have much control over the former condition (aside from responsible preventive measures; i.e., brush and floss daily, don’t drink and drive, exercise). The latter I would agree that we have some measure of influence over, but not “control” in the sense that we can measure and predetermine our successful recovery from the former. If we had complete control over the latter, we’d never require the help of others in coping and recovery. I wonder whether the “self-help” industry, and various types of therapy, aren’t predicated on peddling the illusion that we are in complete control of at least one kind of victim-hood.

    • D. Stevenson

      Whoa! I have never thought of those as victim examples. A victim of periodontitis, of heart disease? I suppose in a way, but I don’t have much sympathy for the drunk perpetrator of vehicular homicide. I don’t have sympathy for the “poor me, I ran barefoot through a patch of cactus and got a thorn in my foot” victim.

      I think victim is less categorical and more on a continuum. Your examples and my cactus runner example are on the continuum. What are they victims of, maybe laziness, stubbornness, stupidity?

      Those nearer the other end of the continuum (yes I know continuum doesn’t have an end – humor me) are those who are harmed in some fashion by something outside their control. Victim mentality is the response to the reality of the first. The general definition is of someone who decides to live in a poor me state and milk it for all it is worth. That is NOT the same as the initial (and for a period of time varying by individual) flailing in pain and confusion and anger

      Victim choice – Romans 12:21 Be not overcome by evil but overcome evil with good.
      This is both a comfort and a challenge for the victim.

    • Stacy

      Hey Scott. Don’t forget the deeper situations where interventions such as mind altering drugs and constant stressors to elicit a behavior are in place. ie. Our CIA “had” a branch in our goverment that actually gave mind altering drugs to people in hopes of creating a manturinng candidate. (sorry about spelling). When looking at the Kennedy assasination one would definatelly lean toward a sucessfull 25 yr. program. If one agrees and states these deeper things, they are titled paranoid scizophrenic or a conspiracy therorist. When in fact the research was conducted and the fact that people as we speak are being tortured and brain washed adds a whole deeper catagory to this “choice”. As the grand canyon was once a creek, the minds thoughts and behaviors are carved in by repetition. God can rescue the Pow in some far away land, but he has let many of them be tortured to absolute zero control or choice to their circumstances and or their mind. I studied in school about shrink who managed to drug and convince a patient that there were dragons and all kinds of horrific things going on around them. They had no choice. I also walked into a room with a gentleman whom I know and witnessed him under complete hipmotysm. The show had already started and he simply was there and bang! He was like a deer in the head lights. When he awoke to find thousands of people in the audiance looking at him, he freaked out and left the building. Choice is in the conscious state. How we process and deal with our situations is based on our brains functioning capabilities. It’s the same as telling a runner that they should be able to run after their legs are cut off. We know that our legs are necessasary for running. We have a choice up to a point within a certain parameter. I guess true faith shows up in the midsts of all those situations and still prevails. Even if the person dies. Brain damage does play a roll in ones ability to decifer info and make decisions based on faith.

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