For many people, nothing is more empowering than the sense of being a victim. They use victimhood as “the right disadvantage.” For instance a wife can have a wicked delight in being battered by her husband because she controls him through his guilt.
Evildoers think of themselves as victims as a way to escape the nagging voice of their conscience. They deflect the blame away from themselves to their supposed “abusers” whom they publicly accuse as the ultimate cause of their misdeed. This is what many drug pushers do when they use their being poor to justify their criminal activities. Their reasoning goes: We are poor and oppressed, victims of an uncaring society, so we have the right to survive even if it means destroying the lives of others.
Child molesters and bullies follow the same line of thinking. They legitimize their action by declaring they were once victimized by their abusive parents. Terrorists who kidnap, kill, and destroy others proclaim that they are merely exacting revenge for the abuses they suffered from capitalism, corporate greed, and politics. Radical activists march in the streets claiming to be victims of cultural and religious inequalities in society.
For sure, there are real victims whose legitimate grievances need to be heard and addressed. But their voices are overpowered by the screams of so many perpetrators falsely claiming to be victims. We now live in a world where victimhood has become an excuse for evading responsibility for the wrongs that we do. The parable of Jesus in our gospel reading today reminds us of this sad state of affairs.
A servant was given a share of his master’s wealth. Instead of investing it, he buried it in the ground. When the master returned, the servant told him: “I knew you were a demanding person, harvesting where you did not plant and gathering where you did not scatter. So out of fear I went off and buried your talent in the ground. Here, take it back” (Matthew 25:24-25).
Based on the way he phrased his sentiment, the servant did not seem afraid; he was defiant, like someone who finally got the courage to confront his abuser. What he really meant to say was: “All these years, I was a victim of your false generosity. You have always given me so little and demanded a lot. Now, I give you back what you gave me, nothing less, nothing more.” His words echo what one contemporary rapper sang:
“I am a poor man
I’m tired of your wicked system
where I merely survive while you get richer.
So I refuse to invest the little that you gave.
What I did may not be right
But it damn sure makes us even.”
The servant’s grumbling would have been understandable if his master were indeed exploiting him. But nothing in the story indicates that the master was unjust and cruel. Since the servant looked at himself as a victim, the master was forced to act according to that valuation. He treated the servant as he wanted to be treated.
If you find yourself perpetually complaining about many things, suspecting everyone of taking advantage of you, you might be like the servant in the parable, suffering from a “victim complex.”
For instance, during this pandemic, when you feel the symptoms of a disease, you might think you’re a victim of outside forces. But if you look closer, you realize that your misery is self-inflicted. Your fear of sickness is the very thing that weakens your immunity to disease, and your allergy to pain makes the slightest discomfort excruciating.
The more we visualize ourselves as a victim, the greater the possibility that we become one. We attract what we expect.