Victim Mentality and Blame-Shifting

C.S. Lewis's fictitious demon Screwtape advises his nephew and demon-in-training: "The Enemy [God] wants people to focus on what they must do. We want them to focus on what might happen to them." In other words, the Devil wants to cultivate in us a victim mentality so that we will be distracted from doing that which God calls us to do. Victimhood is the prevailing narrative of our culture; thus, blame-shifting is the default response to much of what goes on in life. We can't control anything that anyone else does, but our instinct is to focus all our attention and energy on what other people are doing. This focus on blaming other people and our environmental factors is a distraction technique to avoid the more difficult work of dealing with our own shortcomings and failings--which is almost the only thing we can really do anything about.

We find all sorts of things to blame for our unhappiness and discomfort: the devil, the crazy economy, stupid politicians, an oppressive employer, my selfish spouse, my annoying kids, my medical condition(s), my personality, being hungry, being tired, something that someone else did to me, etc. I'm not saying that these are necessarily illegitimate burdens or afflictions, but these factors are not ultimately responsible for our attitude. These things can't control our response. Other people can't make us do or feel anything. The most important factor is not how bad the problem is but how we respond to the problem. We are ultimately responsible for our own emotions, our own feelings, our own words, and our own actions. There is a framed picture in the hallway at Suwannee Insurance Agency (where my study is) that reads: "Adversity does not build character...It reveals it."

There are two major ways that the victim mindset and blame-shifting manifests: 1) We try to change/control those things that we blame for our unhappiness, or 2) We give up in resignation and disgust due to the fact that there's no hope for anything to change because everything that needs changing is outside our control. Usually, we try #1 first and then resort to #2 when we have exhausted ourselves (and everyone around us) at trying #1.

Instead of focusing on and blaming everything and everyone else that's wrong, God calls us to humble ourselves before Him and rely upon His grace so that we can endure trials in a way that is honoring to God and edifying to those around us. The Bible is filled with promises that we will endure all sorts of hardships, but the focus is always on our faithful response to God's hard providence. First Peter 5:6 says, "Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, by casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen." 

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