The word “victim” means someone who is harmed, injured or killed by someone else’s action or some event. This is the first definition. The second one (according to Webster’s Dictionary) is one who is tricked or duped. Either definition denotes a state many seek to avoid. Being a victim means you have suffered harm at the hand of others or an incident. So today I am asking myself, “How do I avoid being a victim?”
This morning I was on the phone with a close friend. COVID, isolation and recent acts of violence in her neighborhood are causing her to feel unsafe. She feels unsafe in her environment every day and it is starting to take a toll. Instead of talking more about her feelings on the topics above, she started to talk to me about her feelings of mistrust surrounding her husband.
“He went to see his mom and he just isn’t contacting me as often as he usually does. Last time he reached out much more and he was warmer and more receptive when we talked,” she said. “I was listening to this podcast about this woman who was married to a narcissist and she found out that everything was a lie. He had another family. He stole her money. It was awful, and it really started to make me think…do you ever really know a person? Do I know if John is even really at his mom’s house?”
I know my friend well enough to know she was at a low point. She also suffers from severe trust issues, and her coping reserves were low. She was ready to see betrayal and danger everywhere. I spoke to her about this, and we discussed how her present situation was causing her to spiral and it made sense that she would start to attack one of the things she relied on to her keep her safe: her relationship.
But I had to admit, she raised a lot of good points, and her questioning started to get me thinking as well. Do you ever really know anyone? How does trust work? Aren’t we all just one event away from feeling taken advantage of in our relationships?
Trust is necessary in any significant relationship. There is no way around it, but trust is not a given and it certainly doesn’t mean you will be safe from harm. For those of us who have serious trust issues, trusting someone is worse than giving up an appendage. It feels seriously unsafe and often terrifying. We will constantly look for an out and excuses to distrust. We will fight it tooth and nail as trust begins to be established in a relationship. We will constantly look for reasons to revoke it. We do this to avoid being a victim again.
But is this even healthy? Can I avoid being a victim in a way that does not adversely affect my relationships because I do not just suffer from trust issues in my romantic relationship. No way. I have trust issues with my children as well. Do I have the ability to trust them and give them the space they need to possible make me a victim of their bad choices?
At the end of the day, I see it as a balance. It is not smart to disregard true health and safety, but there is a certain level of trust needed for a healthy relationship and this trust may leave you vulnerable to being a victim.
Perhaps being a victim is merely a state of mind anyway. Maybe the only real way to avoid being a “victim” is never see yourself as one to begin with or changing the negative connotation that comes along with the word victim. Maybe being a “victim” is an irreversible position where real learning and growth can occur in a way that could not happen without the event, person, circumstance which caused it. If life is about gaining perspective, perhaps the label of “victim” is one of the most crippling in our own personal journey through life.
Seeing through the facade of the victim and seeing it only as an event which allows us to grow and change is the only way to avoid its fate. Trust and faith is the only way to rise above the fear of being a victim, and these two factors are necessary for a wholehearted life.
At this point, the answer seems quite clear. If there is no way to avoid being a “victim”, then there is only one way forward: to intend to never fall into the trappings of victimhood. I will leave the word “victim” to other’s description of negative circumstances and use the word “hero” instead. Hero may better denote the courage and strength the person needs to overcome whatever those experiences are, and it is a way to think positively about the steps ahead. If I feel I am the hero of my story, the trials seem much less.
How about you? Are you the hero or the victim of your life?
Love and Light, Heroes.