My husband and I have discussed many times, how when a person chooses to classify himself or herself as a victim, it is often a lifetime status that they find themselves stuck in and unable to escape, as though they are forever living under a dark cloud.
It is very difficult to talk to people who have suffered, either from harm directed at them from someone else, or from a random act of the universe, and explain to them that they have a personal responsibility for what has happened to them.
I struggled with the idea for years because it can sound like this sort of approach puts us in a place where we are actually blaming victims for somehow causing the harm that has befallen them.
If you really think about it however, this actually does the opposite, because the idea of having responsibility is ultimately, and always, empowering. It is the absolute best way to help walk someone out from under that eternal dark cloud that seems to stick to him or her so relentlessly.
I was talking with an acquaintance recently about abusive relationships and her strong feelings about them being glamorized by the entertainment industry. I remember specifically that she justified her feelings on the matter by explaining to me that she herself had been in an abusive relationship.
It wasn’t until later, when I was reflecting on that interaction that it occurred to me: “Hey, wait a minute, I have been in an abusive relationship before, and I don’t have the same feelings that she does on the matter.”
I think that this is because I have taken responsibility for the part that I played in that relationship. I know that I must have sought out that relationship at that point in my life for a reason, whether that reason was to teach me something, or simply because I was a young and naive. In the end, I made choices at every step along the way, and I am the only individual who is ultimately responsible for my experience.
In regards to things like sicknesses, or accidents, or random violent acts; no, of course the people that suffer these things are not ultimately responsible for them happening. On some level we can question whether they do have some spiritual responsibility for calling certain hardships into their experience of existence, but directly and physically, the best approach is to empower them with the choices that they have a direct responsibility for once this thing has happened to them.
An individual who suddenly finds that they are faced with a terrible illness, for instance, has choices to make as to how they are going to respond to their situation, as long as they believe that they have a responsibility for themselves, and that they are not ultimately helpless.
We often make the mistake in our culture of setting children up in the beginning to become victims later in life. We tell them to be wary of strangers, but neglect to teach them how to defend themselves. We tell them never to do drugs because they will become addicted and will have no control over their actions. These sort of things set them up to become victims later in life.
Empowerment is vitally important. It is the key to helping people see themselves as capable of changing their lives and their own situations when they are unhappy. We all hold the responsibility for making our own lives happy ones. How many people do you know, going through life, who believe that if they can just have that one thing; that job, or that partner, or that car, that their lives will be happy ones?
This is a result of their training at an early age, which led them to believe that it was something external that was going to bring them ultimate happiness, and not something internal. They are disempowered people, and if something doesn’t help them to see things in a different light, they may end up living their lives as victims.
Just as we are all responsible for our own happiness, we are all responsible for reaching out and helping others discover how to find theirs. No one should have to live his or her life as a victim, empowering people who are living this way is immensely more compassionate than simply consoling them. The hard part is finding a way to help them understand that making the choice not to maintain victim status is the key to changing their life.