Stuff happens. Life happens. Sometimes bad things happen to good people. And sometimes terrible things happen to innocent people – children, and others who are vulnerable.

I suppose I could be a victim if I wanted to. I have good enough reason to feel that way. I grew up in a household where violence, drama, and abuse happened. I didn’t get to experience some of the things growing up that I wish I had.

And on top of that, no-one remembered my birthday!

That may seem strange to complain about, but at the time I felt it was major. I was a young adult already, and became very upset and depressed when my “best friend” and a few others who I thought should remember totally passed my birthday by without so much as a mention.

Of course now I see that forgetting my birthday was a small thing. The degree of pain I allowed that event to create in my soul was an expression of the mindset I had developed. Yes, I had been wronged in my life – badly. And I had allowed that reality to take over much of my identity.

Today I’m a very different person from the one who cried over a forgotten birthday. And I know for certain that I’m the one who has changed, rather than my circumstances. All the moaning and groaning I did for years only made me tired: it didn’t change anything!

I believe the biggest thing that changed was my own mental outlook. I saw myself as a victim back then. I acted like one, and that led other people to treat me like a victim. Some felt sorry for me. Some tried to take advantage of me. Some tried to help me.

But as long as I was a victim, I couldn’t be completely happy, or freely give and receive love, or do what God put me here to do.

Nothing changed in a day. No knight in shining armor came and rescued me. I didn’t win the lottery or inherit a lot of money. God didn’t zap me into a different life situation.

But over a period of time things in my heart changed so much that I sometimes have a hard time believing how bad things were for all those years. And as I changed on the inside, circumstances around me changed as a result.

What made the difference? Here are some things that changed it all for me:

  • I never gave up. I didn’t like the way things were in my soul and in my life, and I didn’t quit until things changed. I just kept at it.
  • I reached out for help. Sometimes it was out of desperation, but I got all the help I could find. For me, that involved medication, therapy, reading, self-help books, attending various groups, and everything else I could conceive of or find out about. Did any of these things alone make the difference? NO. But they gave me information and tools to use in getting better.
  • I stopped being a victim. I developed a different identity. I was no longer that scared little girl from a messed up family. I was a caring professional with a mind and an opinion of my own, with something to give in this world.
  • I kept on learning. Although sometimes it hurt, I refused to be blind to what it was in my own life that was causing me pain. And I kept on practicing new thoughts and behaviors.
  • I prayed. And prayed, and prayed, and prayed. I put this last on the list because it’s the most important. I honestly believe that without God’s intervention in my life I wouldn’t have come out of those painful years intact. And I also believe that without my own determination God would not have zapped away my victim-hood.

Hopefully you’re not a victim. But if you are, or you feel like one, I hope this gives you some hope. I don’t want to minimize in any way the destruction to one’s soul that various kinds of trauma can cause. But we don’t have to stay there!

I’m a victim no longer. Are you?

Your turn: What happened to you? How have you survived? What helped? What does it mean in your life now? I’d love to hear from you!