Ever meet someone who in short order talks on and on about how they’re a victim of something horrible but they won’t let it define them?Right. They might as well be shivering in an icy wind insisting they’re not cold. The polite reply might be something along the lines of, “Good for you. Stay strong.”  

Perhaps a more humane response would be to ask why not? 

There’s nothing new about being a victim. Life has always been fraught with misfortune, injustice and dreadful circumstances. A relatively recent spin on the whole dynamic is the celebrated status bestowed upon those who promote their stories on the news or a blog or anywhere else they can get attention. Victimhood has even entered into the arsenals of political groups who use it to spin information into expedient or profitable messaging. Their compliant members are all too happy to identify as victims.

The person declaring to the world he will not be defined by personal affliction has given himself over to not only being a victim but a commodity as well. He may revel in the passing spotlight of public sympathy and even find some extra income. But he’s actually cheating himself because he has not engaged in the sojourn of personal growth that misfortune importunes. Thus, the greater society gets cheated as well.

Why not settle down into some deep thinking after a bad turn and find some actual illumination? For instance: A random act of violence leaves scars deeper on a woman’s psyche than her body. She asks, “Why me?” Everyone in her sphere consoles it was just bad luck. Move past it. Don’t let it define you. Yeah. But why me?

At this point, many people stop moving past their past. They spend the rest of their lives fearful or angry, retreating from the world or becoming shrill activists — or worse. They stomp around in their own personal puddles of pain splashing mud all over the world. 

What if at such a critical juncture, she would ask not why me but why that? Why did that episode come into my life? What does it all mean? Was it to punish me in a strike of karma? Was it a failure of God? Was I subconsciously calling out to the universe for it? She’s begun the work. Let’s hope she doesn’t quit midway and skew what could be a wonderful outcome.

One take on the reason for difficult times is that Life is a teacher. The lessons for each of us will come in their own good time whether we like it or not. Those of us who buckle down to invest in the hard labors of learning will earn corresponding rewards. For the woman just beginning her search for meaning, I hope she examines the nature of forgiveness. It lifts so many blinders.

Some people equate forgiveness with religion and therefore dismiss it as antiquated and irrelevant. Plus, since there is no app to supply easy answers, it’s too much trouble for some. Regardless of the bibical connotations, to forgive is to employ a basic tool of the human condition. An act of self healing, it curtails cycles of misery. Which does wonders for mental health.

The person who assaulted her must be held sternly accountable. Society cannot hold together without rules of conduct. It may not be forgiveness which ultimately leads our student through the fog toward wisdom. It may instead come down to the fact that from this incident, Life has taught her to understand how so many things in this world interconnect. Light shines brighter against the dark; good does not triumph without a foe. People can emerge from tragedy with increased humanity. Of course, exceptions occur and sometimes professional help is required but that’s a story for another day.

If successful in her delving, she has indeed become defined by her experiences which have been overlaid with serious introspection. She has left victimhood behind to pursue a life deeper in purpose. And that’s a good thing for all of us. 

Judy Allison has enjoyed a long and varied career in media and has written for newspapers, magazines, cable TV, government entities and elected officials. She and her dog Torrey the Wonder-Bouvier wander through many neighborhoods in the region.