Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Professional Victims

I'm reading the book, Life Without Limits, by Nick Vujicic.  You may have heard of him or seen the videos of him on Youtube.  He is a man born without arms or legs, yet he now tours the world speaking to people, especially youth, with a message of hope and purpose.

In one of the chapters, he recounts meeting Joni Eareckson Tada.  If you aren't familiar with her (which would be shocking if you are a Christian), she is a woman who became paralyzed decades ago from a diving accident.  Her whole future was swallowed up in one event, so she thought at the time.  But now her ministry provides hope and encouragement to multitudes around the world.

Anyway, here is a snippet that jumped out at me.

"It was hard for Joni to buy into that concept.  At that point she felt like a victim, and that's what she called herself, 'a victim of a terrible diving accident.'  At first she blamed everyone but herself for her quadriplegia, and she wanted everyone to pay.  She sued.  She demanded.  She even blamed her parents for bringing her into a world in which she could become paralyzed.

Joni felt the world owed her something because she'd lost the use of her arms and legs.  She eventually came to realize that victimhood is an easy place to hide.  We can all blaim to be victims of one misfortune or another.  Some people feel like victims because they were born into poverty.  Others claim to be victims because their parents are divorced, or they have poor health, or bad jobs, or they aren't as thin or as tall or as beautiful as they want to be.

When we feel entitled to the good in life, we feel robbed and outraged when something happens to make us uncomfortable.  We then look to blame others and demand that they pay for our discomfort, whatever it might be.  In a self-centered state of mine, we become professional victims.  Yet pity parties are the most tedious, unproductive, and unrewarding events you could ever attend.  You can only listen to "Poor, Poor Pitiful Me" so many times before you want to tear your hair out and run for cover." (p. 99)

Victimhood is an easy place to hide.  I know this from personal experience.  There is almost always someone who screwed you over.  You will find that there are real limitations that you just cannot overcome.  Things just aren't the way you wished they were.  There is always the lingering, "If I just had... " or "If life was just this way..."  There is always some missing ingredient.  We feel short-changed.  We blame other people and become bitter at them.  We blame God for our rotten lot in life, as we watch everything we love crumble away just because God didn't fix this one thing.  And sometimes we don't stop there.  We blame and punish ourselves.  If you just didn't have this limitation, she would still love you.  If you just weren't like this, everything would be different.

But does it do any good?  The thing is, we live in a fallen world (something I get sick of hearing, but it is true).  Things happen that are misfortunes, that are wrong, that do involve sin and negligence from others or from ourselves.  But making victimhood our home is more than self-defeating.  It defeats the purpose of our lives and alienates us from everyone around us.  Our purpose is to give, to give of ourselves to benefit of the lives of others.  That doesn't happen when you are all about you, stuck on yourself for all the bad things in your life.  You just turn inward and shrivel up.

Thankfully, Jesus did not choose victimhood.  He came to earth, to humanity, fully aware of the suffering He would face.  He -though He had more reason to than anyone- did not play the victim.  He endured, taking responsibility for His life, and pouring it out for us.

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