Unfortunately, major branches of psychology and psychiatry during this century [20th century] have helped promote the notion that we are all in some sense victims—victims of insensitive parents, victims of poverty, victims of abuse, victims of implacable genes. Our state of mind, therefore, is someone else’s responsibility. This kind of psychology is very appealing to many academics. It gives them endless opportunities to pretend they know what makes an individual miserable and unsuccessful. It appeals as well a lot of unhappy people. It gives them an excuse for their misery. It permits them to evade the responsibility for their own lives.
Of course it does, but probably not from the kind of source you are thinking of.
These are actually the words of Dr. Bob Rotella, a noted sports psychologist who has worked with some of the world’s greatest golfers. These words are in his book Golf is Not a Game of Perfect (pp. 31-32).
He goes on to say,
People by and large become what they think about themselves … Winners and losers, [Coach John] Wooden said, are self-determined. But only the winners are willing to admit it.
I don’t say this to endorse Rotella’s psychology (or his theology), although this is a great golf book.
I say it to point out that the idea that people are not controlled by external circumstances whether present or past is not strange. Nor it is the exclusive view of “legalistic fundamentalists” and biblical counselors.
Personal responsibility for one’s emotional state is a very old and abiblical (that is, outside the Bible) view. It didn’t come from people who want to beat you down and berate you. It is held people with no apparent biblical framework who believe that life is about more than what happened to you.
And these people believe that you control how you think about life and circumstances.
In a victim culture, hope is removed because the past is the past. And out of every thing that we can change, the past is not one of them.
So if you believe that you are who you are because of what happened in the past to you, then you can never find hope. You are doomed to a life of hopelessness.
The good news is that hope isn’t found simply by thinking better about yourself. The good news is that true hope is found in understanding how Jesus dealt with the past, and how he will deal with the past in the future.
The gospel teaches me that through faith alone, Jesus deals with my sinful past and promises to deal with the sinful past of others in his time. I need not be a slave to people who hurt me. I need not let them control my life. I can let God settle his debts.
That doesn’t mean I do nothing. Where crime and illegal acts have taken place, I can pursue them through legitimate civil means. Where hurt continues to be foisted on me, I can remove myself from that situation.
But ultimately, Jesus will settle all debts in reconciling all things to himself.
And because of that, I don’t have to live under the weight of my past—whether my own actions or the actions of others. I can live in the grace of Jesus.
That won’t fix my golf swing. But it will change my life.