Victim or Victory?
Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. -Philippians 4:8
Last week I had a conversation with a woman who teaches high school English in a really difficult district. The resources are few and the challenges are many. She talked about the high turnover rate of teachers and the problem of burnout. When she told me that she had taught in the district for twelve years I asked her how she had managed to stay motivated.
She responded, “You have to find a victory every day. It doesn’t matter how small it is. You just have to find one, and then focus on it.”
What an insightful response. And what a great example of living the wisdom of Philippians 4:8.
It’s so easy to focus on the negative, to give our attention to the things around us that aren’t going well. It’s a bad habit that robs us of joy and often deceives us into believing that we are victims of circumstances beyond our control.
Sometimes we can’t control our circumstances, but we can always choose how we will respond to them. And we can control where we focus our attention.
Victor Frankl, who spent three years in concentration camps, wrote, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
Tired of feeling like a victim? Choose not to be. Here are some steps along the way:
- Stop blaming others. Blaming others might feel good for a moment, but in the end it leads to a deep sense of powerlessness and hopelessness. Others may indeed be wrong, but blaming them won’t make it right.
- Start the morning praying to see through God’s eyes. Seeing through God’s eyes can awaken you to the deep pain in that really annoying person or the possibilities in seemingly hopeless situations.
- Ask “what” instead of “why”. Rather than asking “Why did this difficult situation happen?” ask “What can I learn from this difficult situation?” Being a learner is far more powerful than being a victim.
- Review your day with eyes of gratitude. Replay your day and highlight the victories, no matter how small they may seem, and dwell on them. Thank God for each one. You’ll sleep better, and wake with greater hope.
You may not be able to control your circumstances, but you get to decide between being a victim or experiencing victory.
Jeff Marian is lead pastor at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Burnsville, MN