These days, it seems like everyone’s a victim of something. If you’re poor, you’re a victim of the big banks, the one percent, and greedy corporations. If you’re black, you’re a victim of white people. If you’re a woman, you’re a victim of the patriarchy. Whatever goes wrong, you’re a victim of someone or something. It is the go-to assumption whenever someone has a problem or doesn’t get their way; they’ve been victimized. To hear secular types tell it, this comes from a lack of self esteem, or a lack of opportunity, or a desire to avoid responsibility. What we don’t hear talked about is the pride inherent in adopting a victim mentality. It sounds weird at first to say that someone who thinks they’re a victim is acting out of pride; but on closer examination we’ll see how pride lies at the root of a victim mentality.
First, let’s get a good grasp on what a victim mentality is. A victim mentality is not the state of being preyed upon by others, a victim mentality is the automatic assumption that one is a victim and that bad things that happen to them are the fault of others. Take for example a woman who applies for her dream job, only to be told she’s not what the company is looking for. When she jumps on Twitter to complain about how the Patriarchy is oppressing her, she is evincing a victim mentality; because she is assuming that she didn’t get the job because of the malicious actions of others, rather than some lack of qualification on her part or because someone else was more qualified. She assumes she is a victim, rather than looking for ways in which she could improve.
On closer examination, the pride behind this assumption is readily apparent. When we automatically assume that we are the victim, we are assuming that we didn’t bring the undesirable circumstance upon ourselves through sin, mistakes, inaction, or another fault. This is an example of pride, which Webster defines as ‘inordinate self esteem’, or thinking more highly of ourselves than we ought. In our example above, there could be many reasons our hypothetical woman didn’t get the job. It could be that she wanted to be a rocket scientist, and had a master’s degree in Penguin Gender Identity Studies. It could be that her otherwise-perfect resume was written in crayon. Or it could be that she has the personality of a bull moose crossed with Attila the Hun. None of these would be the fault of anyone but herself, but pride keeps her from acknowledging that she could have fallen short in some way. Likewise, she might have been qualified, but someone else was more qualified than she was. Pride, again, preempts this consideration.
The prideful heart assumes it could not have made a mistake, nor could someone else be better than it. The prideful heart assumes that it is perfect, and that any failure to achieve its desires is the fault of others. Thus, the prideful heart is ever the victim when it doesn’t get what it wants.
None of this is to say that there aren’t real victims, obviously. People have been and still are mistreated, abused, and unjustly punished. The difference between this and the victim mentality is that there was a specific and clearly definable wrong done by one party to another, provable by evidence, not simply assumed by the recipient. And in fairness, it is possible for someone to be a victim and still fall prey to the victim mentality, if they simply assume that they are being victimized and don’t bother to look at evidence. Even a stopped clock is right twice a day, after all.
‘That’s all very well’, you may say, ‘but how do I keep myself out of the victim mentality?’
First, look to Christ and how He suffered. He didn’t deserve the cross, He deserved to have the crowds, the religious leaders, and the Emperor himself falling at His feet and acclaiming Him as Lord. Nothing done to you, even if it was legitimately wrong, comes close to what was done to Him, yet He didn’t complain.
Now that we have that bit of perspective, we can examine ourselves to see if we did or failed to do anything that resulted in our undesirable outcome. Pride hates honest self-examination in the light of scripture. Building a habit of searching out your own flaws, using scripture as your guide, is an excellent course of treatment for killing the pride that tempts us to perpetually play the victim. Looking honestly at our flaws and working to eliminate them will not only weaken our pride, but it will also please God, who hates pride.
Everyone who is proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord;
Be assured, he will not go unpunished.(Proverbs 16:5)
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One thought on “Pride and the Victim Mentality”
Thank you for this–it can be so insidious–I don’t know how people can deal with pride without the help of the Holy Spirit.
Your paragraph about what Jesus endured without deserving it and not complaining is the perfect solution and got right to the heart of the matter. I really appreciate you writing this and found this helpful.