What kind of power have we been granted?
As humans, we love power. We’re drawn to it in others, and we’re thirsty for it ourselves. Even those of us who hate to admit it find ourselves nosing up to approval or credit or attention.But this kind of furtive, fleeting power isn’t the sort of power Christ gives.
We hear in the scriptures over and over that our greatest strength lies in our greatest weakness. But what does leaning into our “greatest weakness” really mean? Do we roll over on our backs like dogs who’ve behaved badly? Are we fated to become worms and dust, writhing in ashes and sackcloth forever?
On one hand, embracing weakness is a humbling experience in which God’s strength and love are magnified. On the other hand, this holy idea of “weakness” can be twisted into something much more sinister. This “secret place” -- this subtle valley where the shadows seem to lurk -- is more commonly known as Victim Mentality, a place the slithering serpent seems to love to pin us down.
Here are some ways that I have seen Victim Mentality present itself:
Suspicious of others’ intentions.
Thinks little of self, poor boundaries.
Isolates, becomes shame-focused.
Chooses comfort over confrontation (with self and others).
Focused on past events, overwhelmed by present.
Blames others for personal mistakes.
To my dismay, I have seen Victim Mentality eat away at community within the beautiful Body of Christ. It rips potential leaders apart and propels heartfelt servants into burnout. I have dealt with its snares in my own life, and too often I have seen it destroy others.
Victim Mentality’s ferocity is that it doesn’t choose between fear, anxiety, control, power, anger, unforgiveness….it tries to drag you down with the whole lot. This heroine-esque mixture can permeate deep into our mentality. When we really believe this is who we are, Victim Mentality proves truly intoxicating/addictive. We really do become what we believe.
But here is the miracle (and I mean an absolute miracle): I have seen Victim Mentality slither away (actually, flee like the devil looking at the Light) when a Trinity of practices are applied.
The Anecdote for Victim Mentality is:
Though these three building blocks may seem heavy and hard...we can do it. We can start blessing the small things, even when our circumstances and our past feel unbearable. We can start by owning our mistakes, screw-ups, and addictions to ourselves! Then, we have to open our mouths and take the risk. We speak the truth aloud. We open ourselves to community. In short, we “confess our sins to each other, that we might be healed.” To quote Walt Whitman’s “Passage to India”: “Sail forth! Steer for the deep waters only!/ Reckless, O soul, exploring, I with thee and thou with me;/ For we are bound where mariner has not yet dared to go,/ and we will risk the ship, ourselves, and all!” (249-242).
Regret is a wonderful teacher (this is why I have an issue with the “no regrets” mantra). Through the arms of the Body expressed in a non-judgemental and faithful community, we can find a safe place to confront our weakness. The strong expression of our insufficiency barrels through the door of shame and guilt, revealing a portal to power: Christ’s power. The doorway to weakness and strength is one in the same, not other. Christ offers transformation here - death to life, dark to light. It is through this narrow doorway that we find power backed by abounding love and grace. This power grants us a core authority: a power to rest, to be loved, to obey. We are more than conquers. We really are.