It is critically important to acknowledge the absolute probability of experiencing victimization. – James E. Ward
Chances are, most people will encounter unfair circumstances at some point in their lives. Explain the difference between being the victim of injustice and adopting a victim mindset.
Actually, those chances are 100%! It is critically important to acknowledge the absolute probability of experiencing victimization. I describe the world to be a hostile place that is perfectly designed to make victims out of us. Through years of counseling, pastoring, and coaching, I discovered that because challenges are sure to come, the people who do well in life are the people who learn to manage their challenges well. Failure to mentally prepare for unfair circumstances is really unwise. By preconditioning our minds to strategically and intelligently mitigate the inevitable pitfalls of injustice, while anticipating their arrival, we protect ourselves against adopting a victim mindset. Once an individual adopts a victim mindset, they significantly reduce their chances of successfully navigating their way out of the undesirable circumstances they’re facing.
To better understand the benefit of anticipating injustice, think of the relationship between a pitcher and catcher in baseball. From the catcher’s perspective, it is not a matter of “if” but “when” the next pitch will be thrown. He understands that a 100-mph fastball can be life threatening. To lessen the possibility of him being seriously injured or even killed, he wears the proper equipment to protect himself. You must think of injustice as a 100-mph fastball coming your way. Similar to a catcher in baseball, a Zero Victim Mentality equips you to protect yourself from the danger coming your way and to then “catch” it successfully. Once you mentally prepare yourself to address injustice beforehand, you will be no more surprised by its arrival than a catcher is by a pitched ball.
In your book, you point out that the difference between forming a victim mindset or a zero victim mindset is often shaped by your childhood. Tell us about your own childhood. How did your experiences and your response shape your own “zero victim” mindset?
One day the thought hit me like a bolt of lightning. “I am as smart as any other student in this classroom, boy or girl, black or white!” In an instant, my mentality changed forever. At eight years old, I realized that the color of my skin or growing up on the black side of town held no connection with my ability to succeed in school. I understood that my success in life was not about comparing myself to others or competing with them but about doing the very best that I could. I discovered that I ultimately controlled my destiny.
You point to Jesus Christ as the greatest example of a zero victim mindset. What are some simple lessons we can learn from His example?
o Jesus taught a Zero Victim response to injustice—to not retaliate.
• Matt 5:38-42 – “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away.”
o Jesus commands us to respond to our enemies with a Zero Victim Mentality.
• Matt 5:43-45 – “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven;”
o Jesus forgave, even while experiencing the greatest injustice ever of being crucified as an innocent Man.
• Isa. 53:7 – “He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth.”
• Luke 23:34 – “Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.”
o Jesus commands us to practice the “Golden Rule.”
• Matt 7:12 – “Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.”
The Bible also provides some examples of the victim mindset at work. Tell us about the man at Bethesda. What were the factors that contributed to his victim mindset, and how do those issues affect people today?
The sick man at Bethesda clearly possessed a mentality of defeat from which he desperately needed to be liberated. Four key factors contributed to the sick man’s victim mentality:
• He settled in the wrong environment and maintained relationships with the wrong people. – The sick man resided in the company of sick people for thirty-eight years. I don’t want to seem insensitive to people experiencing health challenges, but this man lived in an environment for thirty-eight years where sickness was normal. When everyone in a community suffers from the same negative condition, dysfunctional behavior becomes normalized, and functional behavior becomes abnormal. When individuals live in an environment where undesirable conditions such as poverty, broken families, and crime are “normal,” they tend to become accustomed to those environments and see themselves as victims of their surroundings.
• He subscribed to time delay. – Over the years, the sick man had become programmed for delay. He never anticipated nor prepared for a specific moment when his condition would permanently change and he would be free from his infirmity. He became a victim of time by becoming complacent in his condition. The sick man became accustomed to waiting instead of taking control of his circumstances. Ongoing deferred hope can eventually become hopelessness.
• He lacked genuine desire to see his condition changed. – Jesus asked the sick man, “Would you like to get well?” The man never answered Jesus’ question. We want him to say with confidence, “Yes! I want to be made well!” Yet he doesn’t appear to have a firm desire to be healed. Victim mentality encourages tolerance of undesired circumstances, which eventually breaks an individual’s will to change. In some cases, victims actually prefer the comfort of the familiar, choosing to keep things the way they are as opposed to the discomfort of making things better.
• He made excuses to justify his undesirable condition. – Though the sick man did not respond by answering, “Yes!” he did respond with three excuses that justified his condition: 1) he didn’t have anyone to help him; 2) he needed to wait for the water to be stirred before jumping in; and 3) someone else jumps into the water before him (the people believed that when the water began to stir, the first person to jump into the pool would be healed). A victim mentality perpetrates the idea that someone else—a parent, spouse, boss, church, or the government—must do for you what you are unable to do for yourself. This man believed that someone getting into the pool ahead of him caused his condition, making him a “loser” to those competing against him. As a victim, their win meant his loss.
For more about Pastor James E. Ward and his book Zero Victim visit