As I was driving home yesterday, I noticed the vanity plate on the car in front of me: WOISME (Woe Is Me). It struck me that out of anything that this person could have chosen to “label” himself with, he chose this.
One of the more frustrating aspects of counseling is working with people who are stuck in the victim mentality. Everything bad happens to me. Nothing ever goes right. Life stinks, it always has and it always will. I have had clients that were so entrenched with this thinking that 7 months into counseling instead of embracing the means to change their lives, they would rather spend the entire 50 minutes crying about the exact same thing they cried about on the first session.
Now before I sound like the world’s most callous counselor, let me say that yes, there are people in this world who have been through horrific things that require time for them to process and heal. But what I am talking about is those who complain for months that their life is awful and nothing will ever change, and when I ask them if they have done anything to change it they make excuses and admit they have done nothing.
Perhaps it is a part of our Hollywood-ized culture. We expect the Deus Ex Machina, the last minute intervention by God or the hero or the prince who swoops in and resolves the problem for us. We seem to have moved from a culture of pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps to a culture of victims. I was abused so I shouldn’t have to serve time for my crime. I’m tired so someone else should have to do the work for me. I’m in the ___% so someone else should have to bail me out of my irresponsibility. I’ve been wounded so everyone owes me. We are so focused on what we don’t have, that we are oblivious to all we have that we don’t deserve.
There are so many who have less, whose spirits thrive, who live in joy. If we take the time to look at others and get our eyes off ourselves, we will see how much we have.
It was for freedom that Christ set us free ; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery (Galatians 5:1 NAS). We have been freed from our chains but like the drunk from the Andy Griffith show we walk back into the cell and lock ourselves back in. We find comfort and security and identity in the rut of our victim-ness. What we don’t realize is how little effort it takes to open that cell door and walk out. We banish ourselves to the dungeon when we can be dancing in the courtyards.
As a counselor, there is nothing more rewarding than when someone who did not see the cell she kept locking herself in not only recognize it, but step outside it, slam the door shut, and walk away from it forever. These are the moments that move me to tears and leave me dancing in the lobby of our clinic as the client drives away. They have finally found their freedom and they have embraced it with their whole being. This is what we were meant for. Freedom.