The Mark Part Four: The Idol of Victimhood

Apr 22, 2010Heal from the past

This is a hard post to write and admit to. But it’s true. You’d think that someone who was a victim of abuse would shun that victimhood status the moment she realized it, flinging it as far as the East is from the West. Nope. I coddled it. Nursed it. Loved it to ragged death.

At first I said nothing of the abuse. For ten years, I kept my mouth shut. I had nightmares, waking with sweat and fear and heart pounding, but I still didn’t reveal what had happened to me.

Then I met Jesus, and He gave me the courage to share once. By the time I walked with him a few years, I shared the story more times. Then it became a strange, happy drug. When I shared it, folks would empathize, send me kindhearted looks, offer to pray. For several years, I relished the attention the story would bring until being a victim became sort of an idol.

Instead of running to God for healing, I ran to human empathy and approval. I hoped the embrace and pity of others would fill me. And they did for a time.

But then something dynamic came. Healing. Blessed, needed healing. My friends in college probably don’t even realize they were part of such a revolution for me. But they were. They prayed me toward health. And suddenly, I no longer felt the need to share my story in order to get attention.

For ten more years, I kept it inside, remembering how I’d made it an idol. My twenties blurred by as I birthed and raised three kids. But the wounds, which I thought were healed, came back. The scars resurfaced. As if God knew that I’d need to revisit them when I was stronger.

So I spent my thirties tentatively sharing my story. With counselors. With a few trusted friends. With my husband. And more healing came, this time slower, more methodical.

Today I am more whole. I know my vulnerability to idolize victimhood. Even typing it here is a risk. I’ll risk getting empathy for my story, of trying to fill myself up with praise rather than a settled peace in God. I’m here to tell you that making an idol of my plight got me nowhere, really. But throwing the whole sorry mess at Jesus’ feet brought the healing I needed.

If I cling to the past that way, needing it to validate and lift me up, I will miss the now, the future. I truly believe that many of us who had painful stories from our pasts sometimes prefer to continue to live in them. If we know chaos and pain, chances are that our fallback will be to live in that same chaos and pain. If we’ve been victimized, chances are if we’re not victimized again through our choices, we’re choosing to victimize ourselves by berating ourselves internally.

Some questions:

  • Do you want to be set free?
  • Are you afraid of normal?
  • Do you cling to your victimhood for attention? To feel alive?
  • How has God been asking you to grow into health?
  • What prevents you from pursuing healing?

I’m curious what your answers will be.