We’re to follow the example of Christ, guarding our minds against the allure of victimhood mentality and reminding ourselves of the absolute truths Scripture holds. Having the victim mindset is one of the empty deceptions that can overtake Christians– it aligns with our fleshly desire toward selfishness and justifying our own sin. Don’t be taken captive by this way of thinking. Instead, trust the Lord and maintain your focus on Christ and the good news of the gospel. Rejoice that you have been saved, you are being sanctified, you serve the Judge of the universe who will make all things right in the end, and pray with compassion for those who sin against you.
In his letter to the Colossian believers, Paul recognized the danger that false teaching presented to the church. After normal greetings and summaries, Paul launches a new section in Colossians 2:8 where he gives them a strong warning.
See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ. (Colossians 2:8)
In this passage, Paul warns them, saying that certain ways of thinking are hollow and will deceive you, warning them against being held captive in these worldly ways and cheap tricks. This warning to the Colossian church is just as relevant to us today as it was then. There are numerous empty and deceptive ideas today that can capture our thinking. One of these dangerous lies that we hear today is this: “You are a victim.”
As with most of the lies that we hear, it is a perversion of something that is true. There are real victims in this world, and there are abusers who harm others physically, emotionally, or financially. That is a reality in this fallen world and a sin that God hates.
The Lord speaks out against oppression in Zachariah 7:9-10, “Dispense true justice and practice kindness and compassion each to his brother and do not oppress the widow or the orphan, the stranger or the poor, and do not devise evil in your hearts against one another.” God commands all people not to oppress, harm, or abuse others. Nowhere in Scripture are these kinds of actions justified. If you are a victim and need to get out of a situation of abuse, seek counsel from an elder or pastor in your church.
On the other hand, there is a sinful and harmful thinking regarding victimhood that does not correspond to biblical truth. This is often known as the victim mentality.
The Victim Mentality Defined
What is the victim mentality? A victim mindset usually includes three types of thinking:
First, the bad things in your life are not your fault, but exclusively because of what other people have done to you. This mindset maintains that you are not responsible for your own actions and attitudes.
Second, a victim mentality also includes getting stuck in negative thought patterns. If you play the victim, you may be characterized by a “woe is me” kind of self-pity.
Third, the victim mentality sees the world through the lens of your own struggles. All the events of your life are orchestrated against you. Whatever happens in the world or in your circumstances, the victim mentality sees those circumstances as directed against yourself.
Victim mentality is a type of thinking that you must avoid, believing you can blame others for every problem, insisting you deserve better, and seeing the world only in relation to yourself.
What you must recognize is that you can be true victim and not have a victim mentality. You are not required to have this destructive thinking, even if you have been mistreated.
It is also true that you can have a victim mentality even if you are not a victim. Many claim victimhood because they “feel” like a victim, yet how one feels is not the measure of truth. We live in a postmodern psychologized age where “truth” is completely based upon individual definition and feeling. “Well, I feel like I’m a victim, therefore I must be a victim. My feelings mean that I am a victim.” Feelings today are elevated to truth. It’s the truth because I feel that way.
We must remember what scripture says about our feelings and whether we should trust them or not. Jeremiah 17:9-10 reminds us, “The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick, who can understand it? I, the Lord, search the heart, I test the mind. Even to give each man according to his ways, according to the results of his deeds.”
We see here the idea that if our feelings are not to be ultimately trusted, victimhood is not something that we can claim just because we might feel that way. The issue then is not even whether you’re a victim or not, but if you have a victim mentality. It’s a matter of mindset.
This is the earthly thinking, the philosophy, the empty deception that the world is promoting: blame others, have a perpetually negative attitude, and think everything is about you. This victim mentality doesn’t sound very appealing at all, but it’s surprisingly attractive in many ways.
The Allure of the Victim Mentality
Why is the victim mentality so alluring?
First, if you believe you are a victim, you are not responsible. If there is something wrong in your marriage, it’s not your fault, it’s your spouse’s fault. If there’s something wrong with your kids, it wasn’t your parenting, it’s the kids’ fault. A victim mentality is attractive in this way: you can feel better about yourself because you’re not the one to blame. You aren’t responsible.
Secondly, those in pain and suffering receive pity from others. It is natural for people to take pity on those who have been victimized. People want to come alongside and help those who have suffered unjustly. There is real suffering in this world, and especially as those who follow Christ, we should show compassion for those who are in pain. That’s why this mindset is so deceptive. When you play the victim, when you indulge in the victim mentality, your motivation may be to receive compassion and attention from others.
Third, victims have a perceived right to complain. The mindset that the world is against you makes it justifiable to air your grievances, to shout from the rooftops all that has happened to you. It makes the victimhood mentality attractive because you feel you have not just an excuse, but a right to complain.
Fourth, victimhood can come with a sense of belonging. You can bond with others who have a common “foe.” If there’s someone else out there that is horrible or evil and all the victims are in the same boat, that brings a sense of community. That feeling of belonging is seductive, but entirely false and deceptive.