I don’t know about you, but I’ve heard a lot about “playing the victim” or “having a victim mentality”. This is condemned as bad and unhelpful. A friend of mine pointed out that, if not balanced, this could be used to shame and blame honest victims. It’s true that the way some people talk, it’s as though it’s not acceptable to actually be a victim. But I believe it is healthy and necessary to recognize when a true wrong has been committed and therefore victimization has occurred.
I heard a speaker recently talk about the problem of a person over-emphasizing how they’ve hurt others, or for other people, how they have been hurt. The speaker had said that balance is needed in recognizing how you have been hurt, how you have hurt others, and how you have hurt yourself. I understand what he is saying; I think it might be better communicated that the goal is accuracy. It is healthiest when our beliefs about our situation match reality.
So what is the difference between “having a victim mentality” and being a victim? It is a question I asked myself recently. I think the difference is in how you view your choices presently. We have all been hurt, some much more so than others. Some of those hurts had affected us negatively and have caused us, at least in part, to be where we are presently. Recognizing this is honest and can be helpful in understanding our situation and the way to move forward. I think the problem comes when someone thinks that there is nothing they can do now to take a step into the future. I think the unhelpful victim mentality people are getting at is when a person takes the attitude of “poor me; this terrible thing happened and now there is nothing I can do; everyone should just take pity on me.” It’s true that the wrong done may have prevented a certain desire or plan that the person had. But we have certain choices we can make now.
When some wrong has been committed against a person, it can take a while to process and if necessary, to grieve. I am not wanting to suggest that a victim should just move on right away. Perhaps it would be best to understand it as an eventual goal. It takes discernment (I imagine) to know when a person is still positively working through their pain and when they’ve gotten stuck in the mindset of the victim.