Do you or someone you know struggle with a victim mentality? It’s far more common than you realize, posing a threat to spiritual growth as I wrote in my recent article. A victim mentality is an insidious form of pride which alienates us from God and others. Even worse, indulging in victimhood we wrongly portray God to others as weak, uncaring and vindictive. We serve an all powerful, merciful compassionate God. Overcoming a victim mentality in our own lives is of paramount importance.
While we are not responsible for the behavior of others, we can avoid enabling their use of a victim mentality. First and foremost recognizing your own tendencies towards victimhood is necessary. On the other hand, we all know or live with those draining individuals perpetually playing the victim. Recognizing this toxic behavior in loved ones helps us avoid perpetuating their behavior unknowingly.
victim mentality recap
The basic pattern of playing victim is to manipulate others into “feeling sorry” for you. This gives a false sense of “power” through manipulation. Resulting in “power” to avoid responsibility and “power” to avoid emotions like guilt and anger. Creating a comfort zone in making others responsible for your situation, happiness and emotions. Typical traits surface like, blaming others, negativity, constant complaining, exaggeration of problems and pity parties. For a full list of characteristics and how they affect our spiritual lives, please see my previous post HERE.
By allowing a victim mentality regular space in our spiritual lives, we give satan a foothold. If satan can keep you in a perpetual victim mentality, he distorts your view of God and His dealings in your life. Resulting in the perspective of “things happening to you, rather than for you. God orchestrates circumstances and suffering in our lives for His purposes. Above all, when you play the victim, you in essence “argue” with God regarding His dealings with you. You hinder spiritual growth and live a defeated life empty of the joy and victory God as for you.
overcoming your own victim mentality
Hopefully, you noticed yourself in the characteristics listed in my previous article, regarding the victim mentality in your spiritual life. Alternatively, you probably became aware of these same characteristics in a loved one. The important thing to remember is overcoming the victim mentality in your own life first. Dealing with your own sin first is a biblical principle found in Matthew 7:3-5. God tells us we cannot remove a speck of sawdust from our brother’s eye without first removing the plank from our own eye.
Using the lists in my previous article, search your own heart and life for these tendencies. Examine situations where you tend to play the victim and seek forgiveness for this sinful behavior. As you work through the steps below, ask God to bring awareness to your use of a victim mentality more quickly. The sooner you recognize you are slipping into this mentality, the sooner you can stop.
Overcoming a Victim Mentality in Yourself
Slowly and prayerfully consider each area below. Journal through areas that seem overwhelming or talk with a trusted friend or counselor.
Recognize the benefits. There are benefits to playing the victim. Becoming aware of the benefits helps you to say “no” to victimhood and choose a better path.
benefits of playing the victim
- Attention and validation. It feels good when you tell your tale of woe and people try to help you or feel sorry for you. This gets old quickly however, when you continue to use this tactic, others begin to avoid you.
- You avoid taking risks. Playing the victim, you avoid taking action which means you ultimately avoid failure or rejection.
- You avoid responsibility. Taking responsibility for your own life and making decisions is hard. The victim avoids this by deflecting these responsibilities on others.
Moving past the Victim mentality
- Take responsibility. Stop blaming others and God for your situations. Take ownership of your decisions and choices. Choose to accept the consequences of those decisions and choices rather than blame shifting. Taking responsibility empowers you to use the resources God provides, maturely facing challenges. (Romans 14:12).
- Learn to say “NO”. People pleasing feeds the victim mentality. You agree to do something to please someone else, resulting in resentment and subsequently blaming them for the bad outcome. Say “yes” for the right reasons and say “NO” appropriately.
- Accept mistakes. In order to avoid bitterness, resentment and anger, accept that others make mistakes and you do too. Let go of the negativity surrounding the wrongs done to you.
“When you hold resentment toward another, you are bound to that person or condition by an emotional link that is stronger than steel. Forgiveness is the only way to dissolve that link and get free.”
defeating the victim mentality
- Acknowledge bitterness and resentment. Bitterness and resentment lead to playing the victim and blaming others and God for suffering and difficulties. Take responsibility for allowing these toxic emotions space in your heart. (Ephesians 4:31)
- Forgiveness. As long as you refuse to forgive another, you are linked emotionally to that person. Your thoughts continually replay the offense over and over, increasing and compounding your suffering. Unforgiveness allows the person to continue to inflict pain upon you. Forgiveness breaks that bond and frees you from your self made prison of pain. Forgiveness is a command for our good. (Matthew 6:14-15).
- Acknowledge your pride. Playing the victim is an insidious form of pride. You are in reality claiming to know best for yourself and others while simultaneously sitting in judgement over others. Deep down you blame God for your perceived trouble and question His dealings in your life. (Psalm 10:4)
- Stop complaining. When you play the victim you complain to keep attention on yourself and your situation. There is no valid reason for this sinful behavior. (Phil. 2:14)
- Focus on your identity in Christ. You are rescued and redeemed by the God of the universe who loves you so much, He died for you. You live by the power of Christ living through you. (Galatians 2:20) God says you are a new creature in Christ. (2 Corinthians 5:17) You are chosen by God, brought out of darkness into His glorious light. (1 Peter 2:9)Above all, you are a conqueror through Christ who loves you. (Romans 8:35-37)
- Practice gratitude. A victim is seldom thankful; they suffer from entitlement and a sense of lack. Practicing gratitude for what you have, instead of what you don’t have changes your perspective from a narrow self centered one to a wider view of the truth. (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
Dealing with a victim mentality in others
We all know or live with someone who is perpetually moping and complaining about their lives. Nothing ever seems to go “right” for these people and no one ever treats them properly. Keep in mind this behavior is a “learned” behavior, that for the most part, serves the victim well. While we all play victim occasionally, those who do this on a regular basis are the most difficult to handle.
I’ve listed below some simple ways to navigate encounters with the victim mentality in others, but remember you cannot change this person. Keep in mind you also may be dealing with someone who has a victim complex, which is a form of mental illness based in neurosis. Please read about the difference between the victim mentality and victim complex HERE. These people cannot simply stop playing the victim and need professional help. You can still use the tips below for your own protection and self care, as dealing with either the victim mentality or victim complex in others is complicated and exhausting.
How to Deal with the Victim Mentality in Others
- Avoid emotional involvement. Don’t get sucked into their drama. They are seeking attention and validation, but when you join them in their pity party, you become emotionally entangled with them. Which is not good for either of you. Sympathy reinforces the victim mentality. Listen with empathy, but remain neutral.
- Don’t be the savior. It’s natural to want to jump in and help someone who is struggling. You can’t fix the situation because the victim doesn’t want to fix the situation.
- Make it their problem. Victims blame others and pin responsibility on someone else so they can avoid taking responsibility. They want you to agree with them to reinforce their sense of injustice. Instead of agreeing, stress how much confidence you have in them to resolve this situation on their own.
- Set time boundaries. Listening to someone complain endlessly is exhausting. Without time limits you become depleted and emotionally drained. Kindly express your willingness to listen, but that you can only do so for a set amount of time, unless they are willing to discuss solutions. The victim will not respect your boundary, so you will need to physically leave or change the subject. This is most difficult with a loved one, but even more necessary. Reinforce your love and commitment to the relationship, but likewise reinforce it is not helpful for them to remain feeling sorry for themselves. Don’t take the guilt trip.
- Don’t give advice. The truth is, victims don’t want to solve their problems. If you offer solutions, the victim is adept at telling you why they won’t work. They may ask for “advice”, but they don’t take it. Ask instead what solutions they have already thought about.
- Create distance. The negative energy and drama in addition to the incessant complaining not only drains you emotionally, but physically. You may need to take a break from the relationship for a time in order to care for yourself. This is most difficult with a loved one you live with, but vital to the health of your relationship. In this case you can carve out an evening or a Saturday for personal care, errands, or a spa appointment. You cannot patiently continue to offer empathy to this challenging person if you don’t care for yourself.
overcoming a victim mentality
Overcoming the victim mentality defeats satan’s advances challenging your trust in God and His goodness. As you seek God’s help regularly in prayer, examining your own heart, you will begin to notice the presence of the victim mentality more quickly. Choosing instead to trust each and every situation to God, resting in His goodness.
Learning to take responsibility for your own actions, responses, and sinful behaviors, nurtures maturity in your Christian walk. Rooting out bitterness, resentment, pride and unforgiveness from your heart defeats the victim mentality. Choosing praise and gratitude over complaining and feeling sorry for yourself opens your eyes to the bigger picture of God working in your life for your good and His glory.
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