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Are you a martyr?

What is a martyr? What is a victim? How are they different?

The same word can have many nuances and even different and sometimes opposite meanings. Both the words "martyr" and "victim" can refer to out-in-the-world objective facts, as in "she is a victim because she was raped." This is a common understanding of the word victim. However, the word victim can also denote a different distinction, which may or may not correlate with the out-in-the-world condition. For a specific example, read about the story of my former girlfriend being raped.

The victim mindset

Whether you hold yourself as a non-victim or a victim is not necessarily tied to any out-in-the-world condition. A victim mindset usually includes self-pity and blame, either toward others or yourself. It places the responsibility for being okay in the world outside of yourself and often feeds on gaining sympathy from others “taking one’s side” or joining with other righteous believers to protect some other victim or group of victims. It basks in a sense of unwanted powerlessness to be able to address the issue, except by making others hurt or change, or even making yourself hurt with self-criticism. You can even be a victim of another seeing themselves as a victim or thinking that others are being victimized. 

How do we set ourselves up to be a victim?

Holding yourself as a victim is often associated with not having taken actions in order to fulfill your #1 job in life, which is to take care of yourself. It can include not saying "no" when you need to say "no," not making requests when you need to make requests, and not setting and maintaining the necessary boundaries in order to take care of yourself.

In 1984 I was having lunch with my mother just two weeks after she had left my father, having lived with a man that she didn't love and respect for almost 41 years. She was complaining about how "he did this and he did that and he didn't do what he should have done." I listened for about five minutes. Interrupting her, I said, "Mama, you let him do all those things." At first, she started to get angry at me, but then stopped herself and admitted, "Yes, I did." She didn't say "no." She didn't set and maintain the needed boundaries, including the boundary of divorce. And, through all of this, she got to be the "good guy" who didn't leave a man who "needed her." She also got to feel good about herself as "someone who doesn't give up." She got to look good, and avoid looking bad, both to herself and others by sacrificing herself.

"Trusting others" and indulging in expectations are other ways we set ourselves up to be the victim. We don't accept the risks associated with whatever we decide to do regarding our arrangements and transactions with others. We want to deny those risks and then blame others, or ourselves when our trust is betrayed. We also indulge in expectations by wanting to feel safer and counting our chickens before they hatch. See Trust, Undoing betrayal, and Undoing expectations.

Another way that we step into victimhood is by resisting and fighting with the fact that, in many circumstances, we are powerless to make things different. My mother keep avoiding the fact that she could not "save" my father.

How is being a victim different from being a martyr (as a mindset)?

Here are some definitions of "martyr" from a few dictionaries that indicate the similarities.

"A person who is put to death or endures great suffering on behalf of any belief, principle, or cause."

"One who sacrifices his or her life, station, or something of great personal value, for the sake of principle or to sustain a cause."

"One who makes great sacrifices or suffers much in order to further a belief, cause, or principle."

The difference may be just one of degree. A martyr is a big-time victim. 

My mother endured great suffering in tolerating and staying married to my father because of her belief in the principles that she should be persistent and not give up, as well as that she should take care of someone who "needed her." To an extent, it would be accurate to say that she was a martyr.

Men and women who believe in the principle that they should fight and even die for their country and then end up sacrificing themselves by doing so are both victims and martyrs.

We are reluctant to notice or acknowledge when we are speaking or acting as a victim?

When we are defensive with another, we are a victim.

When we think we have been treated unfairly, we are a victim.

When we are tolerating another's behavior, we are a victim.

When we say with irritation, "Why did you do that?", we are a victim.

When we feel that our trust has been betrayed, we are a victim.

When we get frustrated because something doesn't happen as expected, we are a victim.

The source of victimhood

The source of victimhood and martyrdom is trying to be a "good guy" and honoring the long-suffering of others who are "good guys" by adhering or trying to adher to "good principles," thereby defaulting on our #1 job of taking care of ourselves.

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