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Everyone is a victim. We all have experienced hurt from others. Being born is the first way that we become victims (Romans 5:12). An honest reading of God’s Word says that we were born into sin, which happened because of Adam and Eve’s choice in Genesis 3:6. But don’t despair. Like all iterations of victimhood, we have options. We can reject God’s plan to move from victims to victors, or we can humble ourselves at the cross and accept a new identity in Christ (John 3:7; Romans 10:9, 13).
Then, layered on top of our universal Adamic problem are two other types of victimization. The first is when we submit to the desires of our Adamic flesh. James talked about this in his LSD verse—Lust, Sin, and Death (James 1:14-15). He said that when our lust draws us to sin, it will lead us to death. In this instance, we victimize ourselves.
Thus, we are victims of Adam and the victims of our choices. Then there is the person who is the victim of another person’s sin. All of us have our stories of what someone did to us. These stories reveal a spectrum from minor to major, all of which bring shape to how we live. Whether your victimness is from Adamic fallenness, personal choices, or what others did to you, there is a path for you to experience a new identity, a victorious one.
Addressing victims is a complicated matter and, even more so, a sensitive one. There is no straightforward way to talk about the effects of sin, whether our choices or something that someone did to us. My treatment of this topic here will not convey the full scope of the problem or all the solutions you need. I will only speak to the identity problem, whether the person embraces a victim or victor mentality. There are two parts to what I’m addressing.
Though there are many aspects to the effects of sin, there is a dangerous problem when those in a position to help victims do not assist redemptively but cooperate in further enslaving the person into more in-depth victim perspectives. You will know by how the victim talks about what happened or those who did it.
Alcoholics Anonymous is an organization that indoctrinates its addicts into an alcohol identity. Once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic. In this instance, victimology gloms on to the sin of alcohol. The addict is not leaving one sin behind—alcohol—but adds another one—victim identity—to the preexisting one. Rather than learning how to live in the freedom and power of a new identity in Christ, the alcoholic becomes a mixture of alcohol, victimization, and saint (assuming the person is a Christian).
I’m not suggesting that the temptation to alcohol magically dissipates when you become a Christian. For many, it does not. The allure to sin and the accompanying motivations to desire what’s forbidden lingers in all of us. Still, Christians should make a decisive and intentional break not to carry a victim’s mantel any longer. God’s adopted children may continue to sense the alluring influences from their pasts, but they are not that person any longer (2 Corinthians 5:17).
Some former alcoholics do not realize that the temptation to drink is not a sign that they are that former person. Ignorantly, perhaps, they don’t understand how the call of receiving Christ’s identity and alien righteousness is an expectation to mature into the fullness of all that it means (1 Peter 2:2; Ephesians 4:22-24). Those counseling the repenting addict must teach him how to replant himself into the new identity that severs his former identity.
The alcoholic addict is the person who chooses to submit to his sinful desires. He victimizes himself. Then there are whole demographics who are the victims of others. The classic victimized group in America is the black person. No rational person would deny the historical racism that has been part of our American past. No sane person would dismiss that America has done more to eliminate discrimination than any other country in the world’s history.
This accomplishment is even more phenomenal when you consider that we’re a predominantly white country. The abusers, which make up the majority, are on the front lines, working to eliminate this blight that has been on our country for too long. It’s an incredible thing to think that the abuser is working to make things right for the victims, and the progress is measurable by so many indicators.
But there is another group of people who are not happy with the progress and are working hard to ingrain the victim mindset into the black community. They incentivize blacks to accept a victim’s role rather than helping them to step into a new identity that teaches about role models, responsibilities, and rewards for achievement, based on merit. In the black community situation, some liberal elites are re-victimizing the black community, which further enslaves them into a victim mindset, as their anger and rioting affirm.
The re-victimization of the black community has a parallel with the victimization of an individual. The most common iteration of this is with what we call abuse, i.e., domestic violence, sexual assault, etc. Like our black friends, these individuals have experienced legitimate hurt from the hands of evil people. Because abuse can thrust a person into some dark places, the victim can form a victimhood identity.
Perhaps it was a traumatic event that profoundly shaped their thinking. Other times, it’s an ongoing abuse pattern where the victim becomes whatever the abuser trains them to be. Either way, the sufferer takes on the identity, role, and worldview of a victim. Even after the abuse is over, they may talk about themselves as though they continue to be the victim of abuse.
These hurting souls sound like the addict in Alcoholics Anonymous: “Hi, my name is [your name]. I am the victim of abuse.” Their victimization is real, but the problem is that they place the accent mark on what happened to them rather than who they are in Christ. They seem to never arrive at Paul’s place, who had many significant shaping influences in his life, one of which he talked about in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10.
A thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
The most significant issue with the alcoholic, black protester, or abuse victim is their struggle with separating, prioritizing, and adequately interpreting their two identities. The first step is to separate their identities into a “then and now” framework: that was your past, but this is your present. Secondly, the victim has to be intentional about making their identity in Christ the priority. Finally, they need to give their past and present a biblical interpretation. Joseph gave us some excellent advice on how to do all three of these things.
As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today (Genesis 50:20).
Do you see what he did? In one short sentence, Joseph separated his past from the present, prioritized God’s sovereign work in his life, and gave it a biblical interpretation. Many victims of sin have a hard time separating then and now, prioritizing the victor over the victim and interpreting the grander picture of God’s work in their lives through the means of suffering.
Nothing will be more difficult in your life than working through the effects of sin, whether it was your choices (addict) or something that someone did to you, e.g., racism and abuse. You have several decisions that you must make as you move from victim to victor. One of those will be whether you’re going to be a blind patriot that salutes the flag of a victim mentality or a biblical thinker.
Like Joseph, you don’t have to pretend that what happened did not happen. But you will have to choose what’s going to control you. You live inside a parallel reality: on one side is your suffering, and on the other is the Lord’s sovereignty. Which lens will you choose to interpret what happened to you? You can assess yourself right now with a few questions that will reveal your victim or victor mentality.
The path to a victor mentality starts in the darkest of places. If you’re beginning your journey out of that dark place, do not read this article like a person trying to ascend Mt. Everest. Don’t stare at the peak. Retrain your eye to look at the base camp. Staring at the goal may deflate you. You’re at the beginning stage, and no matter how much you want to stand victorious on that summit, you cannot do it today.
The key will be applying these ideas regardless of where you are on the journey. Being a victor in Christ is not a destination but an attitude that should mark each step of your life. You’re not looking for the perfection of these concepts but the presence of them. If you’re feeling more like a victim today than a victor, don’t punish yourself because you haven’t arrived. Acknowledge where you are and ask God to give you the grace to take that next positive step.
It’s like the path to a physically fit life. Don’t beat yourself up because you’re not twenty pounds lighter. Take the step that is in front of you. Do that thing the Lord wants you to accomplish. Start stepping out of a victim’s mindset while stepping into a robust identity that belongs to Christ.
Rick launched the Life Over Coffee global training network in 2008 to bring hope and help for you and others by creating resources that spark conversations for transformation. His primary responsibilities are resource creation and leadership development, which he does through speaking, writing, podcasting, and educating.
In 1990 he earned a BA in Theology and, in 1991, a BS in Education. In 1993, he received his ordination into Christian ministry, and in 2000 he graduated with an MA in Counseling from The Master’s University. In 2006 he was recognized as a Fellow of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC).