During the apex of my physical suffering, I found myself in court, not in my usual role as a lawyer, but as a defendant in a $1 million malpractice lawsuit. There was no merit to the lawsuit. But there I was in court, listening to my lawyer argue why the case against me was baseless and should be dismissed. There I was, barely holding on to life, and listening to the hum and whirl of my infusion pump push formula into my small bowel through my feeding tube, feeling quite angry and quite justified in my anger and self-pity. The case was dismissed as meritless. But the anger I felt towards the former client and friend who had betrayed me in my darkest hour lingered.
Victimhood, at its core, is a rejection of the Victim—Jesus Christ—supplanted by the trinity of victimhood: Attention, Admiration and Affirmation.
The former client that betrayed me didn’t seem to care. He was looking for an easy way to avoid a $1 million judgment against him (in a fraud lawsuit) that he couldn’t pay. I didn’t lose his case. I dropped his case after this client stopped paying me and owed me thousands of dollars in unpaid attorney’s fees. Then, more than 18 months later, another lawyer, who didn’t have malpractice insurance, finished the case and lost. So, my former client apparently told the lawyers that sued him to sue me for malpractice because he knew I had insurance. A story of my alleged wrongdoing was fabricated, the body of my work was falsified and then it (and my large insurance policy) was cast into the waters for the sharks to attack. Fortunately, the judge saw through the subterfuge and tossed the case out. I won the case. But would I lose my soul?
No matter how I looked at it, I always had two choices. I could hate or I could love. I could forgive or I could hold a grudge. I could move on or I could seek revenge (if only just reimbursement for the $15,000.00 deductible I had to pay the insurance company for my defense attorney which was a devastating financial blow in light of all my medical bills, not to mention the thousands of dollars this guy owed me). What should I do?
I learned that there is no joy in victimhood. In fact, the longer you cling to your status as victim, the more you will suffer. Yet we see more and more victims every day. They are all around us. They are everywhere. We all know one. They are like crack addicts, just waiting to get their next fix of sympathy or pity. But the narcotic effects of attention wear off quickly and soon the victim clamors for another round of condolences. Complaining. Crying. Shouting. Raging. Whatever it takes to get that next hit. But it’s never enough.
It’s a ravenous, insatiable beast. It becomes an addiction.
Perhaps that’s because victimhood, at its core, is a rejection of the Victim—Jesus Christ—supplanted by the trinity of victimhood: Attention, Admiration and Affirmation. Victimhood is the polar opposite of everything Jesus offers you. The victim wants to be thirsty and parched. But Jesus says if you come to me you’ll never be thirsty again. (John 4:14.) The victim wants to be hungry and starving. But Jesus says come to me and you’ll never be hungry. (John 6:35.) Jesus was wounded so we could be healed. (Isaiah 53:5.) The victim rejects healing so as to remain wounded. Jesus was the great and final sacrifice. (Hebrews 10:1-18.) In contrast, the victim is the continual and insatiable martyr, egotistically substituting himself for the Savior.
Why do we choose victimhood? And, make no doubt about it, victimhood is a choice. Like the choice to shoot up or choose any other false substitute for the atonement of Jesus Christ to ease your pain, it’s a very sinister and self-destructive choice that will take you to very dark places. It’s a ravenous, insatiable beast. It becomes an addiction.
Jesus taught, “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” (Matthew 5:44.) Why? Not because it is some grand requirement to get into heaven. But because it will make you happy … now. It’s actually very good therapy. It’s wise living.
Victimhood is the conscious decision to turn your back on the cross and move far enough away from it that the only mournful voice of pain you hear is your own.
What was I going to do when I saw this friend and former client? I would run in to him a lot. In fact, I would see him at church every Sunday. I decided to experiment upon God’s word. I stopped praying that God would change him and I started praying that God would change me. I prayed that God might fill my heart with empathy, compassion and charity and remove the hatred and anger I felt. I prayed for the courage to hold my tongue. I prayed for the strength to love. And the next time I saw him, I hugged him.
What did that feel like?
It felt like I was in a holy place. I felt love. I felt the love of God come through me and empower me. I felt his presence, telling me that everything would be okay. I felt God tell me that I didn’t have to trust this person ever again. I didn’t have to have a relationship with this person ever again. I didn’t have to excuse what this person did to me or deny that it hurt me. I didn’t even have to like this person. I just had to love him. And there’s a big difference.
Victimhood is the conscious decision to turn your back on the cross and move far enough away from it that the only mournful voice of pain you hear is your own. Not only that but this self-imposed distancing also requires aiders and abettors to feed the hungry, self-centered werewolf that hatred and anger make of us all, thus drawing others away, too. In contrast, the decision to let go of your victimhood and love is unitive, filling and fulfilling. It is transformative, ennobling and uplifting as you experience the incredible love of God flowing through you and lifting you to higher ground.
Embracing the sinner is embracing the bloody and wounded Christ who suffered, bled and died for him and said, “[i]nasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” (Matthew 25:40.) As difficult as it is, I would much rather hold on to the Victim than the dark and endless abyss of victimhood.