Because I was abused as a child, I felt like a victim for most of my growing-up years. To be honest, I kind of reveled in my victimhood, because with that label came a sense of identity. It gave me a “poor me” feeling that translated into “I’m special” in my head.
In my late teens, my identity went from “victim” to “survivor.” That seemed better, but I still felt vulnerable, emotionally bruised, and irreparably damaged by the actions of people in my life who should have known better.
It sure seems as though we’re the product of our environment, doesn’t it? Who we are appears to be a combination of genetics, upbringing, and our past experiences. It’s easy to feel victimized—and even defined—by all the things that happened to us that we couldn’t control.
I felt irreparably damaged by the actions of people in my life who should have known better.
But when I started reading Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy in my early twenties, I began learning that our true identity doesn’t stem from human circumstances; it originates in God. And I found a totally different way of defining myself—a God-centered, God-derived way. This eventually led to a life of freedom from the limiting labels I’d been clinging to.
As I read Science and Health, I began to understand more deeply that God created us spiritually as His sons and daughters, and that we are loved every moment by our divine Parent. That means who we are can’t change, no matter what our experiences may be. We are intact. We are whole. We are complete. When we accept this as the truth of who we are, we can start to revise the way we see ourselves.
This is completely different from thinking that our experiences shape us. The spiritual reality is that we can’t be victimized, damaged, or harmed, because the way God created us is permanent, nonnegotiable.
We may have been told that it’s important to recognize that we are victims and survivors of terrible things. But while we definitely don’t ignore bad things that have happened to us or others, unfortunately, identifying with a problem can’t set us free. Even the brief feelings of validation that may come from thinking of ourselves in relation to the bad stuff don’t pay off in the end, because they leave us stuck in that concept of our identity as damaged, rather than moving us forward.
Another aspect of thinking of ourselves as victims—whether it be of some kind of trauma, or even something like a relationship that didn’t work out—is that we have given away our power. That means we are powerless to do anything to help ourselves. We are at the mercy of circumstances—what others do, or don’t do, for example.
When we choose, through prayer, to see things as God sees them, we move from believing we’re helpless to feeling the power of God with us.
But no one really wants to be helpless, and we don’t have to be. Mrs. Eddy gave us a way out when she wrote, “Know, then, that you possess sovereign power to think and act rightly, and that nothing can dispossess you of this heritage and trespass on Love” (Pulpit and Press, p. 3). To me this means we can decide whether we’re going to stand on the victim side or put our thoughts on the side that is God-founded and God-based.
When we choose, through prayer, to see things as God sees them—as sustained and protected by divine Love, which is another name for God—we find that our thinking shifts. We move from believing we’re helpless to feeling the power of God with us.
As our perception of ourselves is transformed, our experience will mirror that change. In my life, as my concept of myself became more spiritually rooted, I gradually went from feeling powerless to feeling in control, from feeling weak to knowing I was strong. I also no longer felt so much at the mercy of my circumstances.
This kind of change is possible for everyone. As we lift our view from victim—or even survivor—to an up-close understanding of God’s always-present care for each of us as His child, we’ll find an identity that’s full of satisfaction, hope, and possibility.