Recently, while watching the program, “Ask God,” a quote they brought forth touched me deeply. That quote was: To forgive is to set a prisoner free, and discover that the prisoner was you. (Catherine Ponder). Thus, once the prisoner, who is you, has been set free, they are liberated to move forward into a future of faith, hope and fulfillment.
It was difficult enough making the journey from a victim of domestic violence to a survivor, and it took a very long time. I also came to realize that self-pity is a first cousin of unforgiveness. It’s the failure to forgive others, and it is also the failure to forgive ourselves for harboring ill will toward another.
There were two or three things that kept me in the web of victimization, and one was the attitude of self-pity. I saw myself as a victim, I soaked in the victim mentality, thinking someone out there would feel sorry for me and treat me as the poor, pitiful, abused soul that I was, even long after the abuser was out of my life.
Right up front let’s get something straight. Not all victims have self-pity―most victims, for that matter, do not. They are desperately trying to battle their way out of the situation that has made them a victim, whether it is being verbally or emotionally abused, sexually abused or a victim of domestic violence. But, there usually does come a time when a decision must be made, and the question is asked, “Now that I have escaped my situation of abuse, am I ready to move on to becoming a survivor?” Letting go of the victim mentality means we have to release a great part of our identity, a part that perhaps has gained us immense attention and pity over the years. It also means we have to give up on the continual finger-pointing at the perpetrator, accusing them of ruining our life.
Giving up the victim mentality and self-pity means we move forward to take control of our own life―mind, will, emotions and spirit. If the victimization has been a long, drawn out ongoing experience, it is very difficult to “let go and let God,” as many of us are admonished to do, without causing re-victimization (See Victim Mentality link).
As I wrote in my book, dysfunctional became the “normal” for my life. I could do it standing on my head, both hands tied behind my back and wearing a blindfold. I had it down to a science, because I had learned it so well over a long period of years. For nearly seventeen years I was in a self-protection mode. My chief focus was staying alive and keeping my children safe, clothed, housed and fed. Horrific comments and actions that took place behind a closed bedroom door will be taken to my grave. Some things serve no purpose in being repeated.
Then, one day, there I was―single and unattached, in a position to make my own decisions. Granted, they were not always the best decisions, and probably the ones who suffered most from my poor choices were my precious children. I spent many years wallowing in guilt and self-pity, begging for forgiveness around every turn. Eventually, I was told, “We forgive you,” and a huge hurdle was crossed. I could only take them at their word that what they expressed was honest and true, and that their forgiveness was genuine.
But, releasing the guilt and self-pity meant I had to put on my big girl panties, grow up and deal with life on an adult level. I had to make wiser choices. I had to look in the mirror and be brutally honest with myself. It meant I would have to mature to a level of proper functionality and professionalism. I had to confront all the truth and yes, for me personally, it meant I had to begin speaking out. My book is full of the warts and pimples I carried through the years. I was far from perfect, but I knew I was on the perfect path to find healing, health, wholeness, and God’s grace. That hope could only come from Him. No human being could give me what He had to offer to rehabilitate and restore me to what He originally created me to accomplish.
Self-pity is “all about me.” It is being so focused on the bad in your life that you have very little, if anything, positive to give out to others. Your children will suffer at the hands of self-pity, because they do not get “all” of you. Relationships will also suffer. It’s hard to let go of self-pity. I was like a crack-head on self-pity, and it had become a “drug of choice” for me, per se. Thank God for His intervention and getting me clean and sober, helping me realize how much richer life was without that dependency on self-pity.
There are so many more productive ways for me to spend my life these days. No more pointing fingers, no more blaming others for my inefficiencies or imperfections. I own my life, the good, bad and ugly, but I own it. God helps me in the day-to-day operations, but there is nothing comparable to being able to allow the guilt others would pour on me to merely roll off my back while I contemplate the wisdom of King David, as he wrote in the book of Psalms: “I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”
God thinks I’m a big deal, and who am I to argue with God? All I can do is try to be the best “me” I can. Will I fall short? Probably on a daily basis. Will I try to excel and undertake life with integrity and compassion? With every beat of my heart.
If you are wearing bruises or a cast on your arm from a broken bone at the hand of your significant other, then I feel you just may have a right to feel a bit sorry for yourself. But, know this, it can be better, and I’m here believing for you that it will be better―very soon!
- Thanksgiving 2010: Thanks for Lessons Learned From Abuse (cshennecy.wordpress.com)
- Domestic Violence – Is God Punishing Me? (cshennecy.wordpress.com)