The Source of Expectations

There’s an old joke, “The number one cause of divorce is marriage.”

Along those same lines, the number one cause of disappointment is expectations.

In today’s culture, people seem to feel they are “victims” if their expectations are not met.

For example, people expect to find a job after graduation to pay off the debt incurred in college. But, for many, if those expectations are not met, they blame everyone but themselves, including the companies that did not hire them or their college. Some even file lawsuits for tuition reimbursement and stress damages when they cannot get a job to which they think they are entitled. And some say college tuition is not fair, so they want everyone else to pay for it. This is classic victim mentality.

Often, expectations are based on a sense of fairness. The amorphous goal of “fairness” is impacted by the redefinition of a common term that that many mistakenly believe is a human “right.”

The term “equality” is thrown around by politicians, media talking-heads, special-interest advocates, and “social justice warriors” as though we have rights to equal outcomes or equal standards of living (not equal rights to pursue happiness).

Our Declaration of Independence affirms “that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.” But nowhere do our Founders guaranty “equality” as a right, either in treatment, opportunities, or in results.

The original concept of equality stems from the Founders’ rejection of the once ingrained belief that the ruling-class aristocracy had superior rights because they were chosen by God. America’s only guarantee of equality is equality in the eyes of the law.

The Fourteenth Amendment contains a clause that reads “no state shall . . . deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws” (Lawyer’s note: Our jurisprudence interprets that to mean the federal government as well as states). This is the part of the Constitution that is misconstrued to give people false expectations of “equality” in something more than equal status in terms of the law.

You probably already understand this, but many people do not because the politicians, advertisers, advocates, and media folks who benefit from enabling the victim mentality have long promoted the false notion that people are denied “fairness” if they don’t have “equality” in whatever they think they’re entitled to (this also leads to people making up “rights”).

Unfortunately, this is exacerbated by a couple of factors. Many years ago the ridiculous narrative of “every opinion is valid” began to take root. People actually believe that nonsense, and the so-called “political correctness” that avoids “offending” anyone has substantially curbed the normal socialization effect of letting people know when their ideas are just plain dumb.

People even ignore things like the colossal failures of socialism and communism in favor of their opinions that “fair” distribution of wealth and assets by ruling-class elites should work, despite the abundant historical evidence of disincentive to produce, massive corruption, and genocide. Even to the point where an avowed socialist (who used to say he was a communist) can be a contender for president because enough people feel they are victims of their unmet expectations.

Understanding that life is not fair, and that human expectations of “fairness” will inevitably lead to disappointment, is a helpful perspective for avoiding the victim mentality.

Those with that outlook are extremely fortunate.

Good at Throwing … Tantrums

The 49ers quarterback who refused to stand during the National Anthem doesn’t bother me.

He engaged in a selfish, immature stunt that is basically a tantrum. Much like a little kid’s tantrum, it’s socially unacceptable behavior designed to get attention.

Some thoughts on why he’s throwing this tantrum:

  1. He’s been actively seeking a trade out of San Francisco since March. He’s frustrated and, like a kid who isn’t getting his way, he’s acting up.
  2. He’s a declining player who’s lost the spotlight. As is common before maturity, and is the essence of tantrums, any attention is better than none – even negative attention.
  3. Sadly, he’s bought into the popular “victim” narratives, and he’s practicing all four components of victimism.

By claiming that his actions are in protest of “a country that oppresses black people,” he’s selectively comparing race-based outcomes, not individual case-by-case outcomes or actual reasons.

By saying “There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder,” he’s clearly revealing his obsession with fairness … as he sees it.

By disrespecting the National Anthem, he is blaming America, not the individuals he believes are responsible.

By claiming, “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way,” he is taking comfort in woundedness, rather than doing something about what he sees as the problem. If he truly wanted something more than attention, he could use some of his $12 million salary to work for prevention rather than just throwing footballs and tantrums. But taking the easy way out and sitting during the National Anthem is a way of finding comfort in the notoriety he finds with those feckless social justice warriors who believe that he is “brave.” It’s also a way of feeling like he’s doing something to help when he really isn’t. Attention to an issue is a poor substitute for positive action. But in today’s all-important-feelings-culture, “attention-raising” is sadly regarded as helping.

Because his tantrum has received so much attention, count on others to follow. But just like a kids’ tantrum on the floor, don’t let it bother you and it will soon subside.

Hard to Forgive

Know what’s really hard? Forgiving people when they do us wrong.

There have been some pretty substantial wrongs perpetrated against me by others. None of them, however, are as substantial as the wrongs I’ve done to myself.

Funny how it’s so much easier to forgive ourselves than others. We human beings want someone or something else to blame. There’s something inside us that says we’ll get sympathy or comforting from playing the victim. Or we get power to control others by using that victim card.

The problem is that not forgiving and holding onto the wrongs is not good for us. In fact, it’s terrible for us. It can lead to all kinds of stress, anxiety, emotional issues and bitterness. Without knowing exactly what caused it, other people can tell when we carry around emotional baggage like bitterness, resentment, or victimhood. It is not attractive. Plus not forgiving lets us hold on to a scapegoat to blame, rather than letting people judge us on what we’ve done to shape our own lives. That only hurts us because it inhibits our own personal growth.

It took me a while, but I eventually forgave several different guys I thought were friends who “did me wrong.” One forged my signature and stole $20,000 from my account; one cheated me out of $18,000 in pay, one lied about me in open court, another falsely accused me of trying to steal his girlfriend, and several stole from me in my home. These things were hard to forgive because I thought they were friends. As William Blake said, “It is easier to forgive an enemy than to forgive a friend.”

But you know who benefited most? I did. By forgiving them and letting the wrongs go, it freed me and gave me a sense of peace that eventually allowed me to develop a perspective that has brought me immense happiness.

It helped me to let go once I figured out that if they have to steal, cheat, or lie, that each of them must be miserable, and far worse off than me. In the grand scheme of things from an existential perspective, I am better equipped to handle the wrongs that each of them committed so I consider myself more fortunate.

I don’t forget what each of them did; I learned from each situation and will not let them back into a position of trust, but I no longer carry any animosity toward them. And it’s as simple as choosing to let it go.

That  has turned out to be an amazingly liberating decision.

“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.”

—Lewis B. Smedes

“The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.”

—Mahatma Gandhi

“It’s one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself, to forgive. Forgive everybody.”

—Maya Angelou

Time to Reject

I got angry watching Mississippi Burning, the 1988 movie based on a true story about blatant and violent racism. I cheered Gene Hackman’s tough FBI character who cracked down on the abusive KKK thugs who terrorized and brutalized black people.

That kind of racism needs to be punished by society.

Abridging anyone’s rights to life, liberty, or the pursuit of happiness is unjust. It’s particularly disgusting and divisive when it’s based on the ridiculous belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority (or inferiority) of a particular race. That’s the dictionary definition of racism.

But the folks who benefit from the expansion of victim mentality have redefined “racism” to mean such innocuous things as describing someone by their color (unless it’s white), acknowledging statistical trends and cultural value differences based on race, or even talking about race. These folks benefit through promising political rescue, through more sensationalized news stories, or through appearing to be advocates of people “victimized” by once harmless things that are now vilified under the new definition of “racism.”

Making nearly any discussion involving race taboo has contributed to racial divisiveness by causing people to avoid each other and important issues regarding race and culture (I’ll bet this post gets very few comments and makes some folks uneasy).

The new racism definition needs to be rejected by society.

Sure, racism still exists (for all races and it always will). But promoting or increasing division is not the answer. Abraham Lincoln famously said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”

Racism (as traditionally defined) is ignorant and terrible. But the new definition infantilizes and demeans people of color, so it’s also ignorant. By imposing a standard that says mere discussion about race, or even kindhearted joking about race, is hurtful (unless it’s whites), the so-called “Social Justice Warriors” and P.C. Police are saying that minorities are less able to deal with normal life stuff … in effect saying that minorities are inherently inferior (see the above definition of racism).

I reject the new racism definition and refuse to be an enabler of the victim mentality. We have to clarify that not everything that has to do with race is “racist.”

Many people consider that dangerous these days because anyone branded as a “racist” is ridiculously considered by some as more “evil” than people who physically harm others.

But it has to start somewhere.

 

What’s Fair?

It’s popular these days to focus on one’s “fair share.”

Whether it’s getting one’s “fair share” of stuff or getting someone else to do their “fair share,” there seems to be a growing concern over remedies of “unfairness.” One might even say there is a “fairness obsession.”

But what is “fair?” Who determines what is “fair,” the people trying to be popular so they can be or stay in charge? Are there any human beings who can be fair without bias, self-interest, or corruption?

Are people more likely to achieve “fairness” if they get it themselves or if they get it from someone else? Which would they value more?

Why are we willing to sacrifice fairness if it promotes our cause, say in journalism?

Which is more fair, income equality or freedom? Is making things “more fair” enough of a justification for taking some of another’s freedom?

We all know that life is not fair, but why do we think we can make it that way?

Is material possession a good measure of “fairness?” Is it a good measure of anything?

Are greed and envy motivators or rationalizations for seeking “fairness” at the expense of someone who has more? Why are we so much less concerned about “fairness” for those who have less than we do?

Is promoting “fairness” for others a way of assuaging our own guilt? Do we acknowledge our own extreme prosperity as compared to the world?

When I was a kid, it used to bother me a lot that my little brother wouldn’t do his share of the chores the three of us boys were assigned (raking, shoveling, etc.). It drove me crazy that he got away without contributing his share. It wasn’t “fair!” It also made me furious when someone got more of something than I would. I was obsessed with making sure my brothers didn’t get too much of something – even stupid things like cereal or orange juice (yes, there’s a story there).

But as I matured, I began to see that I was wasting my time and energy with my fairness obsession. I slowly realized that my own accomplishment and contentment had nothing to do with what others got or provided. It actually felt better to do more when I stopped worrying about what was “fair.” It was better for me to do more work or get less ice cream. And it helped me in other parts of life. By doing more with less help, I discovered the value of independence and hard work, which led to feelings of competence and then confidence.

The notion of “fairness” somehow was planted in my brain (probably envy). But my concept of “fairness” was an impairment to my own happiness and fulfillment. It gave me something to blame for not getting what I wanted, instead of going out and getting it.

Now, it does not bother me one bit that there are multi-millionaires and even multi-billionaires with far more than I will ever have or even see. The world doesn’t owe me a thing.

Where I used to think that inequality (of stuff, not of standing before the law) was “unfair” when I was a kid, the only real unfairness I see now is when people are abused, wrongfully imprisoned, killed, or otherwise deprived of the rights endowed by our Creator. I don’t think it’s “unfair” at all that  people have far more talent, or that I’m paralyzed. It’s just the way it is. And even though it’s frustrating, I don’t think it’s “unfair” that Sprint jacked with my smart phone and won’t fix it (I have the freedom to go elsewhere).

Next time someone says that something is “unfair,” think about whether it’s an impingement on their life, liberty, or pursuit of happiness. Or do they just envy something?

I Blame Myself

I used to blame others for my situation.

Paralysis seemed like such an insurmountable adversity. I wanted to blame God and anyone but myself for what seemed like an “unfair” burden.

But then, after a while, I took responsibility for all of the outcomes in my life and it started paying huge dividends. It was an important guidepost on my journey to overcoming an adversity I had previously thought would “ruin my life.”

Eventually, I figured out that blaming anyone but myself leads to excuses, which inhibit growth and overcoming.

Actively looking for ways to blame my outcomes on my choices, my actions (or inactions), and myself led me to an amazing sense of peacefulness and happiness. It wasn’t easy at first, but it resulted in a non-victim perspective that’s made all the difference.

Unfortunately, we see a lot of people adopting the blaming and excuses offered up by so-called “Social Justice Warriors” these days. Many of the SJWs are well-intentioned (some are just opportunistic) but they enable excuse-making and victim mentality by blaming everything except individual choices. Some favorite blame targets include wealth disparity, hate, discrimination, abuse, and “privilege.” The list is long, and they peddle these excuses while highlighting powerful envy-triggers like “unfairness.”

But blaming and excuses are the enemies of responsibility, growth, and wisdom.

Wisdom and intelligence are related but different. Intelligence has two components: (1) critical thinking; and (2) the ability to retain and recall. Some people are great at one but not the other. The most intelligent are great at both.

Intelligence, however, is no substitute for wisdom. No matter how intelligent we are (or think we are), wisdom only comes from experience. And experience often comes from making bad decisions (or learning from others’ bad decisions).

People only learn from bad decisions by not blaming other factors or people. Blaming and excuses lead to lack of wisdom, which can easily result in victim mentality.

If you don’t already, try to go a week without blaming anything – for yourself or anyone else. Figure out how to blame the outcomes in your life that you don’t particularly like on yourself. And try not giving anyone else a scapegoat. Instead of blaming the boss, co-workers, a spouse, that cop, the government, the weather, hormones, karma, or “unfairness,” try figuring out how to say, “that’s my fault” every time something doesn’t go quite right for a full week. And for that week, try never offering excuses or agreeing with excuses for others. Then go a month.

You’ll see amazing changes in your life, you’ll stop enabling others, and you’ll be glad you did.

 

I Don’t Like It

You know what?

I don’t like the stereotype associated with people in wheelchairs.

But it’s earned.

The wheelchair stereotype is the embodiment of the victim mentality.

A disproportionate percentage of the “chaired” population look and act pitiful. A disproportionate percentage of people in wheelchairs are whiners.

It’s okay to notice that, it’s true.

But here’s the thing – I refuse to be a victim of that stereotype.

Sure, there are people who prejudge me because I’m in a chair. But so what? That’s life. We naturally profile people (and animals) as part of our survival and self-preservation instinct. We learn from observing patterns. Of course there are exceptions, but stereotypes exist for a reason.

Instead of letting it depress me and instead of blaming the stereotype for some lost opportunities, I choose to see it as a challenge and an opportunity (it is a choice).

So I go out of my way to never look, act, or sound pitiful. I don’t whine, and I don’t play the victim. I never want to be the typical “handicapped guy.”

And that’s had positive results. When I demonstrate even just a bit of competence, independence, normalcy, humor, or positivity, people are amazed. They don’t expect it so I “stand” out.

But here’s the best part: by not allowing myself to look, act, or think like a victim, I see all the great things in life.

I don’t focus on the hard or the unfair, I revel in the magnificent!

It’s the best choice I’ve ever made.

Privileged

There’s a relatively new trend that seems to be widely accepted and spreading.

It’s even adopted by some very respected folks who would never willingly promote dangerous or destructive ideas … at least not intentionally.

But it is dangerous and it can be very destructive because it fosters victim mentality.

The tendency to focus on “privilege” is attractive because we want to acknowledge that we don’t have equal attributes, means, or circumstances.

Deep down inside we know that the “equal opportunity” myth is just a cover for the somewhat unsettling fact that life is not and never will be fair. We don’t like to think about the huge disparity in human abilities – either those with far more ability or those with far less.

The sound of “equal opportunity” makes us feel both a little more hopeful and a little less guilty at the same time. But we know it’s just talk, and acknowledging that we were born with better than average attributes, means, or circumstances feels more honest than the “equal opportunity” fib we tell ourselves in order to better reconcile vast the innate disparities through notions of more “effort” or “diligence.”

So we publicly recognize that some are more “privileged” and that makes us feel more authentic and a little more humble. But think what that does on a more subconscious level.

It starts by comparing people to others on a materialistic level. It emphasizes disproportionate means and attributes while suggesting that the inherent unfairness of the world should somehow be rectified. That makes people feel good about themselves without really doing anything, but promotes further obsession with the unobtainable figment of “fairness.”

Focusing on “privilege” also provides a handy and ominous-sounding scapegoat for blaming. The “privileged” or the “privileged class” give impressions of impenetrability. We all like to make excuses for our own failings, but when told that “the deck is stacked” against someone because they are not as “privileged,” that’s a scapegoat to blame, served up hot by the unwitting enablers. Think what that does to most people’s motivation and outlook on the world. Do you suppose it unifies or divides? Provides hope or despair?

And if enabling people to find excuses on the dark road to victim mentality isn’t reason enough to stop talking about “privilege,” try looking at it this way:

If you’ve ever thought stereotyping is wrong or bad, think for a moment about the definition of stereotype: “a widely held but fixed and oversimplified image or idea of a particular type of person or thing.” Then think about phrases like “white privilege” or “white male privilege.”

How are they not blatant stereotypes?

Frustrations

Life can be frustrating.

Yesterday, I spent two and a half hours on my second trip to the Sprint store because an update took away the voice-control functionality of my smart phone (the reason I bought it). When they offered the standard line, “We can’t ever go ‘backward’ with software,” I felt about as frustrated as Miss Manners at a Kardashian reunion.

It is especially frustrating when we feel things are out of our control. Even though I’m acutely aware of the victim mentality and its causes, I began to feel a little like a “victim” of the corporation that is, sadly for my hometown, poorly run.

But then I checked myself. If wresting with the cell phone company is my biggest frustration, how lucky am I? I have a roof over my head in a safe neighborhood, located in a free country. I have plenty of clean water to drink and it’s pumped directly into my home! I have plenty to eat (my tailor would say “too much”), and I have the means to go out for meals and drinks on a regular basis. I am busy with great economic opportunities, I add value, and see tremendous potential in my future. I’m surrounded by great friends and family who are eager to and kind enough to help me when I need it; plus they make me laugh.

I spent hours last evening outside at a nice restaurant laughing (yes, even after the phone store debacle) with my buddy Tony. I love him like a brother (even though he’s not very funny). Another friend, George, happened by, and I invited him to join us. As the conversation (and jesting) went on, George remarked, carefully, that I looked better than I had for years. When he asked why, Tony chimed in right away, “He’s in love.” And he’s right (she’s wonderful).

So as I considered my life on balance, the frustrating phone fiasco feels fairly facile. [grin]

But you can bet I’ll be shopping around for a new provider … when I get time.

I am not a victim.

What I Know & Don’t

Lots of folks have blogs.

There are millions of opinions on the Internet, and everyone thinks they are right.

My experiences and choices — both good and bad — have provided some perspective that has worked surprisingly well, with tremendously positive impact in my life.

Normally, I would quietly give thanks for the blessing and not tell others about my revelations because I don’t want sound like a “know-it-all.”

I also realize that everyone’s circumstances are different and wonder if anyone else would find value in what I think anyway (worldviews are incredibly difficult to impact).

But others have encouraged me, even prodded me, to share what I’ve learned. I suppose that’s because they see I’m genuinely happy after overcoming what they think (and I thought) would be an insurmountable happiness drain: paralysis.

At the funeral of a friend, a former girlfriend’s brother who took his own life, I was witnessing his family’s tears and cry-worn faces and regretting not getting together with him for that beer we always said we were going to meet for. Close to tears myself, I thought maybe I could have helped him see that things were not as bad as they can seem. But just as I thought I was probably overestimating my ability to bring some positive influence to his life, one of his sisters hugged me tight and said, “Too bad he couldn’t have talked to you first, Fritz.”

Those words have “haunted” me ever since. Although complimentary, they make me feel I need to do more. To take the risk of failing as I try to share the perspective that I truly believe is a gift.

If my efforts to share what I’ve learned can help just one other family avoid the intense pain I saw and heard that day, it will be worth ruffling a few feathers and being rejected by some (maybe by many) because the concepts challenge many traditional notions that unwittingly enable the victim mentality.

Key to the fact that I’m even happier now than before I broke my neck is my eventual recognition of the victim mentality, its sources, its components, its prevalence, and its immensely destructive effects.

I will unpack that here at Not A Victim by trying to present positive perspectives on sometimes difficult topics. And I’ll try to share what I’ve learned without sounding like a know-it-all, because though I’ve been blessed and see some unsettling truths that may take time to reveal and may be difficult to accept, I don’t know it all.