Wrong has been done to me in my lifetime.
And wrong has been done to you in yours.
I have done wrong to others in my lifetime.
And so have you.
Everyone living -- except those who have not yet lived long enough for this to apply -- has both done wrong and had wrong done to them.
The same could be said for all those who once lived but are no longer living, with the exception of tiny babies who left this earth before they had a chance to wrong anyone.
Many of those had grievous wrong done to them, up to and including their murder.
But while everyone in the world has -- to some degree or another -- had wrong done to them, not everyone identifies as an eternal victim.
That's because existing in a state of perpetual victimhood is a choice. We have the ability to forgive and forget: also a conscious choice.
I know from personal experience that spiritual, emotional, and physical abuse leaves scars. I also know that you don't have to live each day staring at them. In fact to the extent that we do, we render our lives all but irrelevant.
That's because self-imposed victimhood is a lie. And you're more likely to get frostbite in Fort Lauderdale than you are to make anything useful out of a life built on lies.
During my nine years as a court reporter doing almost exclusively deposition work, I was continually amazed at how quick people are to play the victim. For most, the victim reaction is instinctive. It's a knee-jerk response.
But I was equally amazed by this: The more an individual had been victimized -- and I base that not on my interpretation, but on particulars of their case presented to the court as fact -- the less likely they were to characterize themselves as a victim.
And vice versa.
It was like some kind of phenomenon.
I once sat for an entire day in a crowded conference room listening to multi-millionaires whine because their seven-thousand-square-foot luxury residence had been built eight feet closer to the road than they wanted, and rotated fifteen degrees in the wrong direction.
Also the hardwood floors didn't turn out to look as "cool" as they had envisioned.
In the same case, a retaining wall built four inches too high elicited an hour of aggrieved testimony from the put-upon parties victimized by a diabolical hardscape designer and his cunning coterie of evil stonemasons.
Anyone who had ever walked their dog past that manse while it was under construction, and everyone from the guy who drove the dump truck full of fill dirt on ground-breaking day to the last undocumented worker who polished those uncool floors, got sued. The case caption was two pages in length.
Everybody and their brother, and their brother's pet parakeet -- except the homeowners who commissioned the ill-fated Xanadu -- was to blame.
And yet in a case where the wronged party was a woman whose leg had been grotesquely mangled in a catastrophic collision with a semi-tractor-trailer -- which accident she barely survived -- there was not a whiff of victimhood.
When the lawyer asked the maimed deponent to testify as to her belief regarding the guilt of the truck driver -- who escaped injury -- she answered simply: "I can't say who was at fault because I don't remember."
Girl, I thought. There was your chance to cry victim and you missed it. Instead, you left room to implicate yourself. Now you may have to take whatever part of the blame might be yours.
(Oh and if you do not believe people lie under oath, I suggest it's time to have your rose-colored glasses prescription adjusted.)
And when they do lie, it is almost always to make themselves out as more of a victim than they actually are. Nine hundred ninety-nine times out of a thousand, the end game is to line their pockets with cash.
Maybe you know one. Maybe you are one.
Perhaps you are acquainted with a pseudo-victim. Here are a few traits common to the breed:
Although they are as likely to admit it as they are to turn purple, sprout wings, and fly to Mars, pseudo-victims see themselves as near-perfect. According to them, they are innocent and misunderstood, beleaguered and persecuted, under-appreciated and much-maligned. They grant themselves every benefit of the doubt while affording that same courtesy only to those who agree with every syllable of every tenet of their self-indulgent victim agenda.
The pseudo-victim automatically and habitually heaps scorn on those who have had the audacity to make good solid choices in life. The amount of contempt leveled at the one who took a higher road in any particular -- i.e., morally, ethically, or spiritually -- is in direct proportion to the degree to which that person has reaped the benefits of having made decisions based on Biblical truth.
Once a victim, always a victim, and someone else is always one-hundred-percent to blame. After satisfying themselves that they are indeed victims, pseudo-victims accept zero responsibility for anything that has ever happened to them or will ever happen to them in the future, that they perceive as "bad." Their victimhood spills over into virtually every aspect of their lives.
Oddly enough, pseudo-victims claim to have simply everything figured out. They've memorized the manual. No; they wrote the manual. They know all of the solutions to every problem. They are privy to the thoughts, intents, motives, and deeds of others whom they accuse of having wronged them, even when they were not necessarily a witness to those individuals' actions and cannot divine others' thoughts. The pseudo-victims are oracles; they are all-seeing eyes. They are the love children of Ouija Boards and Magic-8 Balls.
Whether directly or indirectly, the pseudo-victim blames God for every disappointment they have ever experienced, reserving special loathing for anything "done to" them in a Bible-believing church. They ooze derision for God's people and hold them accountable for every misfortune, large and small, that has ever befallen them. If only the Christians had left them alone, their life would have been flawless, stunning, sparkling, sublime.
Pseudo-victims are unable to stay on topic -- even their own most cherished subject, which is themselves. What starts with tales of perpetual victimhood soon and often devolves into malice-drenched, slanderous -- and usually baseless -- gossip sessions with others like them. The pseudo-victims in their clubhouse adore slinging unfounded accusations at anyone who ever failed to fully validate them, or who had the effrontery to challenge them, thwart them, or even disagree with them on any minor point.
While anything but shining examples of righteousness themselves, professional pseudo-victims demand adherence to the highest of standards by everyone else -- especially anyone claiming to be a fundamentalist Christian. If a fundamentalist Christian commits a sin, they are immediately disqualified from all credibility and any hope of redemption. They may as well go down into the dirt and give up for good because they are not worthy to be looked upon, much less acknowledged as having a valid viewpoint.
The life of the pseudo-victim has been marked since childhood with contempt for authority. The pseudo-victim is an ingrate, full of rebellion. Nothing done for them was ever enough to make them happy even for a moment, but even one thing done to them was more than enough to make them mad forever.
It is not likely there will be a miraculous recovery as long as they cling to their malignant victimhood. They will leave this earth still embittered victims, still as miserable as they are misinformed, still blaming others for their own failures.
Pseudo-victims have an astonishingly thoroughgoing sense of entitlement. They are "owed" something at every turn: reverence, respect, pity, vindication, attention, unquestioning belief in the veracity of their every emotion and every utterance. And no matter how much they get from any quarter of any or all of the above, again: It is never enough.
Like the faithful on a pilgrimage to locate the holy grail, they always come back for more. They crave and demand the blind sycophantic loyalty and approbation of all those they encounter.
While pseudo-victims snivel and sob and brandish their tiny one-note violins, authentic victims go all but unnoticed and almost always remain unhelped. In fact, a pseudo-victim wouldn't know a true victim if the identity of that person were revealed to them by God Himself. With their selfish sense of entitlement and their preoccupation with misdirected antagonisms, fake victims further victimize actual victims.
If another "victim" does not agree with them on all points -- for example, if a victim chooses to forgive those who ill-used him and move on with his life -- the pseudo-victim deems that person's victimhood invalid. Only those willing to rubber-stamp the eternal victim's narrative and be eternal victims in their own right, are invited to the party.
If one whom the pseudo-victims have championed as a fellow victim strays from the reservation so much as a lamb's length, and balks on any of the main talking points, the phony victims turn on that person and rip them to shreds. That's because pseudo-victims aggressively lord it over others while vocally despising and taking to task anyone who ever presumed to have any say over the behavior of the pseudo-victims. In other words, they love to dish out orders but refuse to take them from anyone else.
Pseudo-victims tend to be short-sighted, immature, and selfish. They desperately seek personal relevance while leading lives defined by petty jealousy. They are stubbornly blind to the big picture. They are rarely part of the solution but are perennially part of the problem. They repeat what they've heard, deeming themselves much smarter than they actually are. They are shockingly ineffectual but like most such people, they are blissfully -- for them at least -- unaware of that fact. A ninetieth-percentile parrot demonstrates more insight and intelligence.
The pseudo-victim is likely to be politically liberal, personally licentious, purposefully libelous, and -- all too often, in fact almost always -- only partially literate. They're inordinately proud of the first three, the godlessness of those traits being so supremely satisfying. But if you call them on that last part, they'll blame their parents, their teachers, the school they attended -- as long as it was a Christian school -- and/or, lacking a better scapegoat, their smart phone.
And I repeat: That is because nothing -- ever -- is their fault.
If I Could Teach The World To Think
You have probably concluded that I'm the meanest person alive if, by writing that, I claim to know people who exhibit all of the unsavory qualities I just described.
But I'm not saying that, so settle down. I may be given to flights of hyperbole but I'd be surprised if anyone living in the world today could fit the above description in every particular, all of the time.
The truth is, I recognized some of those characteristics as being applicable to myself, at one time or another. I hope to avoid being so foolish again, but you never know.
If you're being honest, you saw yourself in some of them too.
That's because we are all guilty of stubborn pride, of selfishness, of self-pity, and of blaming others for what we do not wish to face and own up to as being our fault. If we think we are not, we deceive ourselves.
However, some people live in that place of dedicated pseudo-victimhood too much, too often, for too long, and much too comfortably. And it is those who have the most difficulty recognizing their own predilection for victimhood.
Others have learned that to be human is to give and take offense. It cannot be helped. More or less constant forgiveness is required every single day, of anyone who wishes to be successful in relationships and to find any measure of personal peace and joy.
The hue and cry over the past nine months -- since Jack Schaap's disgrace -- has issued, flame-thrower style, from many who consider themselves to be extreme victims of the late Jack Hyles, of Jack Schaap, of First Baptist Church of Hammond, and of the Independent Fundamental Baptist movement in general.
The events as they have unfolded have generated a great deal of discussion and with it, a fair amount of heat.
How Do You Solve A Problem Like IFB?
Among IFB-haters the decision seems to be unanimous. If only they could padlock every door of every IFB church in America and across the globe -- with all the fundamentalists inside -- and burn them to the ground, the universe would instantly be a better, happier, more fair, and less menacing place.
Only, it wouldn't. Have they convinced themselves that megalomaniacal religious leaders and child abusers and sexual predators -- even hypocrites -- exist only in IFB churches? Or, for that matter, only in churches, period? Surely nobody is that -- ahem -- ignorant.
No; they're aware that burning the IFB churches and all the fundies to cinders, while very exciting, wouldn't put an end to that kind of malignant evil. It wouldn't even put a dent in lessening human tragedy.
But they do think it would solve the problem of upstart hypocritical legalistic fundamentalists coming at them ever again proffering that offensive idea of eternal absolute truth, and the responsibility of every human being to live in light of the same.
Of course, they're wrong about that too. Truth will never be curtailed or derailed, no matter who wishes it and no matter how many find it inconvenient.
According to the Institute of Medicine, 98,000 people per year die of preventable medical errors. At least that was the 2003 estimate; some believe the number now is closer to 110,000 deaths per year.
If the Centers for Disease Control recognized preventable medical errors as a category, preventable medical errors would be the sixth leading cause of death in America. Such negligence costs Americans more than their lives; the annual price tag is over $30 billion.
So, the next time a perpetual victim finds himself in need of medical care, will he remember those staggering statistics? Will he rant and rave against the medical establishment and refuse to set foot in a hospital, clinic, or other health care facility, based on documentation of their dismal failure rate?
Will he cite the negligence, the laziness, the arrogance, the ignorance, the sloppiness, the unreliability, the untrustworthiness of healthcare professionals in general, and determine to stay home and heal himself?
No. The pseudo-victim will run to the hospital or clinic and seek immediate treatment from those who make grievous life-and-death errors on an unforgivably vast scale and in incredibly huge numbers, because those places -- and those people -- represent his best chance for survival.
But we know that very nearly every fundamentalist, and almost every IFB church, must be pilloried, disgraced, ridiculed, criticized, and drummed out of existence because some within its ranks are arrogant, prurient, negligent, lax, insincere, irresponsible, underqualified, untrustworthy, lazy, sloppy, or careless.
Naturally. Makes perfect sense. That is, if you're a perpetual pseudo-victim and it's God you're really mad at.
Nobody Throws God Around, Around Here
Much has been said in recent days about healing. Healing from the abuse of fundamentalism. Linda Hyles, on her website, promises she won't quote Bible verses to you, "impose" God upon you, or throw Him in your face.
She says she has been there, done that, suffered from it, and it makes her nauseous. She seems fairly certain it will cause the same reaction in her readers.
With all due respect to Linda, I submit to you that someone supposing they even have the ability to impose God on people, knows God very little and knows people not at all.
God our Creator made us with a free will. He wants us to worship Him of our own volition and obey Him because we love Him. No other person can force God upon us; we alone have the power to acknowledge, accept, deny, or reject Him. Certainly no one can "do with" Him what He Himself will not do.
Likewise nobody possesses the power to "throw" God anywhere -- in the face of another person, or anyplace else. God is not controlled by us. The very idea is ludicrous, misleading, and dangerous.
The fact that Linda's promises appeal so strongly to IFB-haters is much more revealing of what is amiss with them, than of what may be amiss with Independent Fundamental Baptist churches.
If talk of God makes you sick, and if Bible verses cause you to hyperventilate or foam at the mouth, you have deeper problems than anything that was "done to" you in an Independent Fundamental Baptist church, or anywhere else.
That's because there is no truth -- and therefore no healing whatsoever, of any kind, to be had -- outside of God and the Bible.
To assure people otherwise is to egregiously and heartlessly victimize them.
I state that with the utmost respect, compassion, and concern for true victims of spiritual, emotional, and sexual abuse.
Yes; I know there has been abuse in IFB churches. I know it continues today. It grieves my heart and it makes me angry. But the answer is not to shun and avoid churches where the Bible is preached as the final authority for faith and practice, turning instead to man's humanistic philosophies.
No extrabiblical philosophy devised by man will ever serve as anyone's deathbed solace. Nothing man comes up with as a substitute for God will be of any real help to the hurting in life, either.
I grew up with an alcoholic stepfather. He finally quit but toward the end, when his addiction had him most firmly in its grip, he drank more or less around the clock to avoid suffering debilitating hangovers.
But since people must sleep sometime, he would pass out at night, be unconscious for several hours, then wake up and immediately call for me to mix him a vodka and orange juice. Hair of the dog, drunks call it. You need some hair of the dog that bit you, in order to feel better.
Apologies for the crude example and I hate to be the one to deliver this awful news, but the very thing needed most by those who have experienced abuse in a negligent church or at the hands of carnal, selfish, manipulative Christians -- and yes, I have experienced that too -- is the sort of thing one finds in a good church.
They need the Lord. They need Him now. They need to hear the Word of God. There is not a moment to waste. The abused do not deserve the false hope of those who would offer them even the best that man can do. They need help and guidance in experiencing God's love and His mercy and His grace again, or for the first time.
So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
I leave you with a quote which blessed my heart this week.
I now know, Lord, why you utter no answer. You are yourself the answer. Before your face questions die away. What other answer would suffice?