One of the reasons I wanted to go the Reaching the Unreached conference was to hear Duncan Forbes speak about how the Gospel applies to people with victim mentality. These aren’t so much notes, as thoughts in response to what he said.
Victim mentality is when everything is someone else’s fault. The reason you didn’t pay for the bus and then got a fine is because someone didn’t pay you in time, so you couldn’t get a bus pass. The reason you didn’t come to school was because your mum didn’t get your stuff ready. We all do it to a certain extent, but with victim mentality that’s the predominant way you view the world. You’re a victim, it’s always someone else’s fault. So comments said to you that should be taken positively “hey, you’ve done a great job raising your children on your own!” is taken as a veiled criticism “well you would say that because you haven’t had to deal with all the crap I’ve had to deal with in my life.” Everyone makes excuses for their sins in different ways. My fairly sweeping observation is that people from a more benefits class background (and sorry, that’s a horrible term but I’m not sure I can think of a better one) excuse their sin by blaming someone else, by saying “yeah, that was a sin, but it’s not like it’s my fault”. Middle class people –again sweepingly&dnash; excuse their sin by explaining why it wasn’t a sin –by self-justifying, saying “oh that, that’s not wrong, that’s just playing the system”. Duncan first point is that Adam shows some of this attitude in the garden of Eden. God asks “where are you?” Adam answers, “I heard you in the garden” and then later “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree”. I was hiding because of you, it was the woman’s fault, the woman who you put here, which makes it even more your fault!
The way to deal with victim mentality isn’t to say “shut up, your life’s great, stop blaming other people for your own problems.” Actually you need to affirm that people are victims of sin. You don’t want to undermine people’s responsibility for their own sin; if they’ve sinned, they need to repent and confess it and not blame someone else, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t the victims of sin and Satan. The answer then is to point people towards the only true innocent victim, Jesus. Duncan spoke about the power of showing people Jesus as a suffering innocent victim who died for us. Here is a man of whom we can truly say “he was despised, and we held him in low esteem… but he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities;” (Isaiah 53:3&5).
There have been a few times this week where I’ve had young people come to me and I’ve gone to say one thing and stopped, because I’ve realised that my response was going to be something like “stop moaning”. I haven’t managed to come out with anything profound instead, but gosh, is it something I need to think about. The talks are going up online soon on the Reaching the Unreached website, this one especially is worth a listen again.