Posted by: Christine Donovan | July 14, 2009

Get Over It! How victim mentality holds us back

The past few posts I’ve been a following a theme about the lack of kindness and the rise of anger in our world.  Frankly, I think it’s scary.  There is so much repressed frustration and vitriol around, yet…in my humble opinion…most of it is caused by our declining values and grandiose expectations of what life “should” be.

A lot of people are walking around with such a victim mentality that they are unable to see how much they create, and contribute to their own problems. 

More so, they invent predicaments to get others to feel sorry for them, to give them attention, and to justify their own laziness and lack of motivation.

It’s so subtle that most don’t have the vaguest idea they do it.

I had an acquaintance, whom I’ll call Betty, who was the world’s biggest victim.  She came to me for advice and encouragement once in a while, but it didn’t take long to realize that she had no intention of fixing anything in her life.  Her misery was her crown of glory; she’d used it for so many years to manipulate people, it had become a part of her, and she was not going to change what had “worked” for 30 years.

Betty and I would occasionally go to lunch or dinner and I would listen to her go on, often crying, telling me about her deceased husband (who had died ten years ago, several years after they’d divorced).  She felt guilty about a long list of things in that relationship and it apparently still haunted her. 

At first I felt badly and tried to help, reminding her that the past is behind her and that she needed to look to the future.  She agreed, and said, “so many people have told me that, but I just can’t let go.”  Over time I realized that this was her way of manipulating and controlling, and giving herself excuses for not moving on.  Her whole life was a mess (I won’t go into details), and as an outsider, as far as I could tell, all of her problems stemmed from this victim state of mind.

I did my best, over several months, to repeat the same advice – “Betty, you HAVE to let go of the past; it’s OVER.”  I suggested books to read and churches to attend to help her change her thinking (We are located close to Joel Osteen’s church in Houston; he is one of the most inspirational speakers around), but she never did any of it.  She preferred to wallow in her self-imposed misery; it gave her a strange sort of security. 

Although I’m a caring person and would give you the shirt off my back if you needed it, I’m also a believer in NOT enabling, and when she would do nothing to help herself, and continued to cling to her stories of the past, I told her I wasn’t going to listen any more.  “Betty,” I said, “I’m going to ask you to tell me only good things, or I will change the subject.”

Not surprisingly, she absolutely couldn’t do it.  After several lunches with her continuing to bemoan the past, and my changing the subject, Betty stopped having lunch with me.  But I wasn’t surprised; she truly didn’t want to change… it was too much “fun” and too familiar to play the perpetual victim. 

I find it heartbreaking that so many people are in the same state of mind.  I’m not a psychologist, but I assume that some of this goes back to childhood:  we told Mom and Dad when we were sick, or sad, or when didn’t make the team, and they hugged us and bought us ice cream.  So we learned that being victims paid off.

Now, if you look at someone you admire, I guarantee you that you won’t find a victim, but an overcomer.  Go ahead… name a person you really admire… a celebrity, a community figure, your boss…. And you WON’T FIND A VICTIM THERE.  You will find a person who has overcome and flourished in spite of difficulty.

Life is hard; that’s a fact.  We ALL face trials, and it’s the getting through and over the obstacles, that we learn, grow and become strong.

As Joel Osteen says, “Don’t be a victim, but a VICTOR.”

I hate to say this, but you need to hear it… GET OVER IT!

See you later…


  1. Oh how true! You nailed it to a T. I have in the work of the ministry seen this as well. In some cases in my own family. Your statement below:

    “More so, they invent predicaments to get others to feel sorry for them, to give them attention, and to justify their own laziness and lack of motivation.”

    The sad part is some do it so often they believe their own lies. Like the scripture says, “Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.”

    I can’t tell you how many times I have preached about being the overcomer, not overcome. Why wouldn’t any preacher preach that as well, the book is soaked with victory!

    Yes, I have heard Joel Osteen, very inspirational speaker.

    – Joe Young

  2. Thanks for your comment, Joe. (Sorry, I’ve been offline for a couple of days).

    I didn’t know you were a pastor…that’s truly wonderful! As such, I’m sure you have encountered a lot of people suffering from victim mentality. (There are plenty in my church as well).

    And I agree with you totally… they have already won the victory, but prefer to wallow in self pity. I think they feel safe there… and that’s rather sad. They just can’t get out of the muck and mire.

    Well, I need to get to work on another post for today… thanks again,


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