Avoiding victim mentality

Victim mentality is that state in which something always goes wrong, and in which we never believe it is our fault. It may be a health issue that bothers us, the inability to find a job, an annoying coworker, or an ungrateful spouse or child. Whatever ails us, the common theme of victim mentality is that there is always someone or something else to blame.

When we get stuck in victim mentality, misery clings to us like a baby monkey to its mother. Our health and relationships deteriorate. There is bad luck wherever we look. We may be resentful of life in general (“Everything always goes wrong!”), or just one thing (“Life would be so perfect if it weren’t for such and such!”). Whatever the case, when victim mentality takes over, things go downhill fast.

People genuinely unhappy about something may argue that their attitude is valid. They will say that they are truly not to blame, and that they really do suffer through no fault of their own. Although this logic may seem reasonable, I have found it to be a very unhelpful attitude in life. I am not suggesting that we admonish ourselves with the rebuke that we deserve all the ill that we get, but we will find we have much lighter hearts when we take responsibility for our lives, and this includes those things over which we appear to have no control. There are several belief systems that are helpful here: One is the Indian and Buddhist notion of karma, which says that all that happens to us is a result of our earlier deeds. Another belief popular in the New Age movement is the idea that we attract the experiences that we most need to grow (including our parents, our surroundings, and our body). Hence, there is no point in resenting others, or in resenting situations, because they are exactly what we need right now. Another belief system is the idea that all that happens is the will of God, or the will of the Universe. While this last belief is useful, and the resulting sense of acceptance may be enough for some people, others will benefit more through a belief that includes the notion that they are personally responsible for what goes on.

Whichever belief system we use, it is essential that we escape this victim mentality. Tempered with a healthy sense of self-esteem, and the knowledge that we are doing the best we can, there is little doubt that our lives will become happier as a result. When we catch ourselves blaming others for our misery, or resenting that lingering illness or other misfortune, we would do well to stop being a victim, and instead accept responsibility for our lives.

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Why unbelievers will not go to hell

The British philosopher Bertrand Russell was once asked his response if, upon dying, God were to ask why he had not believed. Russell’s answer: “Not enough evidence, God! Not enough evidence!” He raises an interesting question: why are we obliged to believe if we do not think that the evidence supports it?

The emphasis on belief is peculiar to theistic religions. The common question in the West is “what are your religious beliefs?”. It would seem that a more pertinent question would relate to one’s spiritual practices or views. After all, there is more to religion than sitting quietly in a corner and believing something. Surely it is more important to love thy neighbour, practise forgiveness, speak the truth and give generously. These things have a much greater effect in the world.

People hold many views on how the universe was created, how humans came about, and the role of God and whether he exists. Some of these views may be wrong, and they may be many different perspectives on the same thing. In Good Company, there is a story of an elephant who appears in a village inhabited mainly by blind people. Each wanted to experience the elephant, but of course each touched a different part.

The one who felt the foot said an elephant was a pillar, the one who had felt the tail said it was like a stick, and so it went on with the ears, trunk, tusks, fat belly, etc. Each person described it according to the type of experience to which they could relate it. Then they started arguing. ‘Yours was not the proper elephant, yours was illusion, mine is the only real one, etc.’ Later on the mahout told them, ‘You cannot have a complete picture of the elephant. All you can do is put together all your different experiences of “elephant”, and out of these experiences you can imagine a novel creature known as “elephant”. But it is the sum of all these parts and something more, which represents the wholeness of the creature known as “elephant”.’

Like the blind men and the elephant, it is easy for us to disagree about the nature of the universe or a concept such as God, even if we are all talking about the same thing. Does this disagreement matter?

At the end of the day, I do not think we will go to heaven based on our understanding of metaphysics. Our religious beliefs are not a strong indicator of our character. The Truth is beyond our comprehension, and there is no shame is saying that we do not know, or in saying, as Russell said, “Not enough evidence, God! Not enough evidence!” If we are to judge our character, it should not be based on our beliefs in God, a soul, or life after death. Instead, it should be based on who we are, how we treat others, and how we live our lives. It is qualities such as honesty, integrity, and love, that will determine our final destination.

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