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TTWMN 138: Victimhood

Earlier this week we commemorated the 72nd anniversary of D-Day, the 6th of June. While I’d be surprised if any in our audience were alive and old enough to remember it personally, some of us may have had parents or grandparents who could tell us about it, maybe even participating in it. On that day over 100,000 brave men, many just teenagers, participated in the largest seaborne invasion in history, which cost us thousands of lives. But its success was deemed well worth the cost, as within a year the terrible grip of Nazi Germany on all of Europe was over. Now, our teenagers and twenty-somethings are fragile, injured by even hearing an opposing idea. Today we explore the culture of victimhood that has taken over America, the hows and whys behind it and, most importantly, what we as Christians are to be in the face of it.

 

Table Talk Notes

What was the climate in America 72 years ago?

The “Greatest Generation” had just survived the Great Depression, where over 2 million boys & girls age 10 to 18 had to leave school to support their families by working in factories, mines, canneries and farms. Formerly middle-class families were now thankful to have powdered milk, dried beans and potatoes to eat. Many lost their homes, being forced to live in tar-paper huts in “Hovervilles.

 

The Greatest Generation’s greatest lesson learned

“They deny the self-indulgence and immediate gratification that come from material things. Instead they focus on relationship — with their family, with others, and most importantly, with God. They realize that good can come from bad and meaning can come from tragedy.”  (see org article link below)

  • America’s response hearing of D-Day: Stores close nationwide, churches and synagogues are packed as Americans flock to church, praying around the clock.
  • Mayor of New York City Fiorello La Guardia, leading prayer at Madison Square Garden and broadcast live by radio: “We, the people of the City of New York, in meeting assembled, send forth our prayers to the Almighty God for the safety and spiritual welfare of every one of you and humbly petition Him to bring total victory to your arms in the great and valiant struggle for the liberation of the world from tyranny.”
  • President Franklin D Roosevelt: “Many people have urged that I call the Nation into a single day of special prayer. But because the road is long and the desire is great, I ask that our people devote themselves in a continuance of prayer. As we rise to each new day, and again when each day is spent, let words of prayer be on our lips, invoking Thy help to our efforts.” (was 2½ yrs after Pearl Harbor)
  • What started the Great Depression vs the values learned by those coming out of it and WWII?
    • Credit mentality instead of paying cash. “Don’t spend money you don’t already have in your pocket.”
    • Rich grew richer at the expense of others. “Don’t pay someone else to provide something that you can learn to do or to make yourself.”
    • Abandonment of traditional values and frugality. “Never buy anything you can use – only what you can’t live without.”
    • Self-Indulgence and self-gratification by immediate acquisition of possessions. “Don’t buy anything until you have twice the purchase amount.”
    • High Expectations by gambling in the stock market. “It’s doesn’t matter how much money you can make, but how much money you can save!”

 

Seeing familiar patterns? Recognize yourself, or at least the prevailing culture in these warnings? Can this be why we’ve become so “weak”?

  • Philosopher George Santayana: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” From The Life of Reason, vol 1. Also said, “The truth is cruel, but it can be loved and it makes free those who love it.” And that leads us to…

Victimhood.

How it started: “Americans, unlike Far-Easterners, Middle-Easterners, or Russians, expect things to turn out well. The constitutional promise to all Americans that they have the right to the pursuit of happiness gives rise to the expectation that Americans are supposed to feel happy. Not feeling happy indicates some sort of failure. The victim says “it is definitely not my fault.” The culture of victimization is closely tied to what Amitai Etzioni (1987), a sociologist at Georgetown University, called the ‘rights industry.’ This ‘industry’ is a collective term for those who fight for the rights of groups, such as women, abused children, minorities, the homeless, experimental animals, AIDS victims, or illegal immigrants…Fighting for a right all too often means claiming a victim status. Ironically, the rights movement often victimizes one group while liberating another. What seems to be a noble, justified, long overdue act of protecting a victim can easily turn to blame and warfare. When this happens, conflict, injustice, and victimization are perpetuated, and the possibility of resolution and healing is destroyed…

“We have become a nation of victims, where everyone is leapfrogging over each other, publicly competing for the status of victim, and where everyone is defined as some sort of survivor…In claiming the status of victim and by assigning all blame to others, a person can achieve moral superiority while simultaneously disowning any responsibility for one’s behavior and its outcome. The victims ‘merely’ seek justice and fairness. If they become violent, it is only as a last resort, in self-defense. The victim stance is a powerful one. The victim is always morally right, neither responsible nor accountable, and forever entitled to sympathy.” (Source)

  • Victim Mentality: “an acquired (learned) personalitytrait in which a person tends to regard him or herself as a victim of the negative actions of others, and to behave like it were the case—even in the absence of clear evidence. It depends on habitual thought processes and attribution. The term is also used in reference to the tendency for blaming one’s misfortunes on somebody else’s misdeeds, which is also referred to as victimism…The desire of sympathy is crucial in that the mere experience of a harmful event is not enough for the emergence of the sense of being a victim… A victim mentality may manifest itself in a range of different behaviors or ways of thinking and talking:
    • Blaming others for a situation that one has created oneself or significantly contributed to. Failing or being unwilling to take responsibility for one’s own actions or actions to which one has contributed or to take action to ameliorate the situation.
    • Ascribing non-existent negative intentions to other people (similar to paranoia).
    • Believing other people are generally or fundamentally luckier & happier (“Why me?”).
    • Gaining short-term pleasure from feeling sorry for oneself or eliciting pity from others. Eliciting sympathy by telling exaggerated stories about bad deeds of other people.

 

People with victim mentality may also be generally

  • negative, with a general tendency to focus on bad rather than good aspects of a situation. A glass that is half full is considered half empty. A person with a high standard of living complains about not having enough money. A healthy person complains of minor health problems that others would ignore (cf.hypochondriasis).
  • self-absorbed: unable or reluctant to consider a situation from the point of view of other people or to “walk a mile in their shoes”.
  • defensive: In conversation, reading a non-existent negative intention into a neutral question and reacting with a corresponding accusation, hindering the collective solution of problems and instead creating unnecessary conflict.
  • categorizing: tending to divide people into “goodies” & “baddies” with no gray zone between them.
  • unadventurous: generally unwilling to take risks; exaggerating the importance or likelihood of possible negative outcomes.
  • exhibiting learned helplessness: underestimating one’s ability or influence in a given situation; feeling powerless.
  • stubborn: tending to reject suggestions or constructive criticism from others who listen and care; unable or reluctant to implement the suggestions of others for one’s own benefit.

 

Since victim mentality is primarily learned and not inborn, it is possible to change it. A change in attitude may be provoked by an extraordinary situation or crisis. Since rejecting suggestions is a general characteristic feature of victim mentality, a person with victim mentality will generally not respond positively to everyday attempts by another person to draw attention to the problem and its possible solution. For this reason, the condition may become chronic.” (Source)

  • Psychology Today writer David Ley PhD, in an article on the Culture of Victimhood and the current therapeutic trend of “Trauma-informed Care”: “Increased social attention to these subtle effects of trauma inevitably leads to more identification of trauma (a good thing), and to greater social attention to the issues of trauma and victimization (a mixed thing). For many years, victims have been bullied, shamed and blamed, which worsens the effects of their experience. Unfortunately, in a swing to the opposite side, victimhood has now become a protected class in our society, a trend fed by well-intended, but potentially harmful, therapists, activists and daytime talk shows.  Some college students are demanding “trigger warnings” in syllabi at some universities… Trigger warnings are a concept which began in Internet discussions, where a poster might write “Trigger warning: RAPE,” at the beginning of a discussion, so that individuals who might be triggered to re-experience theirtraumatic history could then avoid that discussion. The concept is laudable, and respectful of those who have suffered. But, as this trend spreads, problems arise. If a student can’t read Faulkner without being triggered by the depictions of rape in his works, should they be excused from that assignment? Is that fair, to them, and to other students? Is that beneficial to their education and growth?… Why would people loudly and publicly proclaim themselves as victims? Perhaps a better question, based upon the level of secondary gain, attention, protection and support received by these people, is why wouldn’t they? With all of the attention on the issue, why are we surprised when people are exaggerating, using, or downright lying, about victimization? Of course, when we attach benefits to identification as a victim, we will hear from more victims, both real and exaggerated… Do these benefits and protections actually help victims of trauma to recover? In fact, when we protect people from encountering stimuli which might trigger them to re-experience their trauma, we may in fact be inhibiting their healing, protecting them from the process by which people resolve the wounds of trauma. The effects of trauma can be worsened through well-intended, but damaging, therapeutic efforts… Trauma victims deserve the help to heal, the support to deal with their experiences, grieve, accept it as a part of their life, and move forward. The cry for trigger warnings, justice and protection for victims is asking for that. But, it’s also asking for something impossible – it’s asking for the victims’ right to exist henceforth in a safe place, protected from harm, exploitation and danger. We all deserve to exist in a place where we can’t be hurt. Perhaps that ideal is possible in the afterlife, but I’ve not seen it in this world. Our reactions to cries of victimization must be tempered with a belief in supporting their resiliency. To continue with the way we are idealizing and rewarding victimhood, creates more and more incentive for people to desire to be seen as victims. We must instead encourage people in a way that supports their ability to move forward in their lives, without needing emotional bodyguards to protect them from the unpreventable pains of life. To do less is disrespectful of them, and it discounts the strength they have within. It treats victims as though they are less than, less than capable, less than independent, and less than whole. It treats victims as though their victimization is the most important thing about them.” (Source)
  • NY Times’ Judith Shulevitz in an op-ed “In College and Hiding From Scary Ideas”: “Last fall, the president of Smith College, Kathleen McCartney, apologized for causing students and faculty to be “hurt” when she failed to object to a racial epithet uttered by a fellow panel member at an alumnae event in New York. The offender was the free-speech advocate Wendy Kaminer, who had been arguing against the use of the euphemism “the n-word” when teaching American history or “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.” In the uproar that followed, the Student Government Association wrote a letter declaring that “if Smith is unsafe for one student, it is unsafe for all students.” “It’s amazing to me that they can’t distinguish between racist speech and speech about racist speech, between racism and discussions of racism,” Ms. Kaminer said in an email. The confusion is telling, though. It shows that while keeping college-level discussions “safe” may feel good to the hypersensitive, it’s bad for them and for everyone else. People ought to go to college to sharpen their wits and broaden their field of vision. Shield them from unfamiliar ideas, and they’ll never learn the discipline of seeing the world as other people see it. They’ll be unprepared for the social and intellectual headwinds that will hit them as soon as they step off the campuses whose climates they have so carefully controlled. What will they do when they hear opinions they’ve learned to shrink from? If they want to change the world, how will they learn to persuade people to join them? Only a few of the students want stronger anti-hate-speech codes. Mostly they ask for things like mandatory training sessions and stricter enforcement of existing rules. Still, it’s disconcerting to see students clamor for a kind of intrusive supervision that would have outraged students a few generations ago. But those were hardier souls. Now students’ needs are anticipated by a small army of service professionals — mental health counselors, student-life deans and the like. This new bureaucracy may be exacerbating students’ “self-infantilization,” as Judith Shapiro, the former president of Barnard College, suggested in an essay for Inside Higher Ed. But why are students so eager to self-infantilize? Their parents should probably share the blame. Eric Posner, a professor at the University of Chicago Law School, wrote on Slate last month that although universities cosset students more than they used to, that’s what they have to do, because today’s undergraduates are more puerile than their predecessors. “Perhaps overprogrammed children engineered to the specifications of college admissions offices no longer experience the risks and challenges that breed maturity,” he wrote. But “if college students are children, then they should be protected like children.” (Source)
  • Matt Walsh, on why socialism has become more popular than capitalism in Millennials, originating in the indoctrination of leftist ideas in public education, substituting for true (Judeo Christian) values and morality: “. . . the young generation has lost what I think should be an instinct, to kind of want to go out on your own, make your own way in life, be independent, be free, you know, self-determination. These are things that a lot of people in my generation aren’t inclined to.” (Source)

So how can we leave Victimhood, healing from real trauma, getting over unintentional offenses and actually “moving forward”?

  • Realize you are not “god” and the world does not revolve around you. There is a real God, a Higher Power who is sovereign—He purposely created & loves you. (Psalm 139)
  • Accept that life is not “fair”—bad things happen to good people because we live in a fallen world where evil exists and man is not basically good, but basically wicked and selfish (biblical world view). But if you believe in and love that God mentioned above, you know that He can “use all things” that happen to us for good, bringing purpose to tragedy (Romans 8:18-39, Isaiah 61:1-3).
  • Stop trying to control others—you can only control your own attitudes and actions. Instead, surrender to God, and trust Him with your life. (Prov 3:5-6)
  • Do not look for ways to be offended, but instead practice graceful forgiveness for those who hurt us (especially unintentionally), realizing in humility that we have likely unintentionally hurt others and need grace & forgiveness ourselves. Proverbs 10:12 Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses.

(Source)