Being a victim without victimhood
The Search for Oppression and the Siren Call of Self-Pity
Let’s get one thing straight, everyone is a victim of something. Some people have a terrible disease, some people have experienced prejudice, some people have experienced hate for things they never did, and everyone was born into situations that they didn’t choose. But what is the difference between victims, and victimhood? A victim is just that, a victim of something. But surrendering to victimhood is looking for other ways that you could potentially be victimized and assume ill-intent of a perpetrator. It is separating all of society into victims, and oppressors. You can be a victim without being trapped in the mindset of victimhood, however, and this is where people get mixed up. They act in a victimhood mindset and justify it by saying they are a victim (which they are).
But if we are truly trying to emulate Christ, who’s archetypal existence was a symbol of being a victim, he chose to not surrender himself to victimhood. He overcame the world in that manner.
This view of society automatically decreases your empathy. In an effect called priming, you’re programming yourself to be on the defensive against people who you know nothing about, and not just the cautious kind of defensiveness, but the assumption of belonging to a class that might have oppressed any number of groups. We, as humans, are programmed to thing in terms of groups, us versus them. We want to view the world in terms of “good people and bad people” as Dr. Jonathan Haidt puts it. He wrote the book The Righteous Mind: How Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion. We want to feel good, our brain releases chemicals that make us feel elated when we perceive us or our team to win a hit against someone else or another class, or another team, etc. Viewing the world in terms of classes and not individuals is taking us to a pre-Enlightenment ideal system whereas it’s not the individual that is supreme, it’s the class in which they belong to. And some of those prejudices were continued past the Enlightenment to this day, but they exist in spite of the foundations of Enlightenment thought, not because of them. Victimhood is heavily intertwined with postmodern thought because postmodern metaphysical and sociological assumptions make it easier to rationalize yourself into the victimhood mindset.
In the Church: Get Them Offended
People are tempted to divide our Church into classes. Ruling classes, the commoners, etc. Once identity politics is mixed into how you view the Church structure, (such as viewing politics and Church in terms of Marxist ideals, rejecting the status of the individual as supreme) then it is easy to become offended by the nature of the organization of the Church. This is seen often on ex-Mormon Reddit. That page is infused with either comments about identity politics, the CES letter, or polygamy. People looking for things to be offended by will always find it, not because it is always there (because it could be), but because logic will rationalize an answer to the question that you want to answer. Logic is used as a tool by your psyche to rationalize why you feel a certain way, to justify post hoc your intuitions. “…the reasons we produce to explain or justify our judgments and actions are for the most part post hoc rationalizations rather than the actual source of those judgments.” Link to study. It is a fundamental tenet in moral psychology. This is also an argument for the superiority of revelation as opposed to reasoning as an epistemology. This is why we are commanded to learn by study as well as by faith.
Lucifer: Master of Reason
Lucifer, Son of the Morning, or in his original Hebrew name Hawlayle (“Day Star”), he represents the light of reasoning. Lucifer is the king of rationalizing. He wants to keep you in your thoughts, never going beyond what you can rationalize. Yet Christ said, “I am the light…” (John 8:12). Lucifer’s light of reasoning is the counterfeit to truth because it convinces you that all you need is “the arm of the flesh” or the faculties of your own mind and understanding and that you don’t need to rely on anything else. Don’t question your own abilities, do not reach out for revelation, after all, you might find out something that could compromise your belief systems. When something in the Church offends you, don’t pray, don’t think back to the miracles that reason cannot explain, stay in your mind. This is where he wants you. Be offended, and assume the worst of intentions in people, their prejudice, they’re oppressors, you are virtuous. You, versus them. You are good, they are bad. You must separate yourself from the bad people. Leave the Church, that oppressive structure, be yourself, you are fine just the way you are, you don’t need it. Be careful about going down this slope. I have taken it, and it took great effort to drag myself out, with the help of divine intervention on multiple occasions. Once you rationalize yourself into victimhood, it is almost impossible to rationalize yourself out. You don’t want to give up the heightened sense of moral-superiority to other people, and the siren call of self-pity lulls you into a hypnotic state of feeling that the world is out to get you. It tells you that if the Church is oppressing you (after all, self-pity never calls you to re-evaluate the foundations of your own value structure), then the logical solution is to separate yourself from it.
Eroding Your Faith
Victimhood will eat at your testimony because victimhood relies on deceiving yourself, and resentment towards a) existence and b) your perceived oppressors. Viktor Frankl, the Holocaust survivor, Austrian neurologist, and expert in logotherapy, advocated that a life of joy and a victimhood mindset are not compatible. If true joy comes from overcoming the world, then when your resentment towards others, or for existence generates your worldview, why would that produce joy? For example, I am not blessed, I am doing the best I can, so the world (or God) has it out for me. How about another example. Searching for things to feel victimized by, a woman looks at the 12 apostles Christ had and said “They should not tell me what to do because they are not a representation of their followers, they are straight men.” (This is an actual conversation I had.) Her obsession with identity politics and resentment towards Church leaders (specifically President Oaks) and the system of Church government led to her leaving and becoming heavily involved with organizations that are antagonistic to our faith. I understand her rationale and do not blame her, because I know the nature of reason. This push towards a Marxist, class/group-based social status perpetuates victimhood. Being victimized is hard enough, but thinking like a victim, and viewing the world through the lens of victimhood make it so much worse. It leads to anger, which leads to a decrease in empathy, discourse, and an emphasis on only one thing: power. Everyone is a victim of something, and we vary to the degree in which we are victimized, but victimhood is a choice, and Christ chose against it. It is the mindset that grinds faith into skepticism and turns faithful members into past members. It causes you to focus on the worst aspects of your life, then causes you to perceive neutral things as signs of your victimization. It never presses you to ask “How is this other person, my perceived oppressor, victimized?” It never seeks to criticize itself, nor look inward for flaws, only outward, just how Satan wants you to be.