I certainly didn’t want to play the pitiful victim, forever lamenting the awful things that had happened to me. I saw them as a tool that God had used for the better in my life. They had gotten me (quite forcefully) out of a dangerous rut in my life, and led me down a new path with a healthier outlook. No one wants to hang around the person who is forever sad, complaining about life, and citing excuses for why things are the way they are. But everyone likes to be around a survivor, who shows strength and the extremes to which the human spirit is capable of going.
I’ve mentioned before that I enjoy using my Bible app on my iPhone for the Bible study plans. I use the YouVersion Bible App, and you can go to [www.bible.com/reading-plans] to check out the different study plans they have. A while back I completed one called “Getting Past Your Past” by a woman named Harmony (Dust) Grillo, who knows quite a bit about moving from victimhood to being a survivor. She had to overcome a painful past that included working in the sex industry, and after finding her voice has moved on to become a strong, motivating woman. She now works to save others from sex trafficking and the sex industry through her “Treasures” foundation. Yes, Houston friends, we all know that there is a huge strip club on Westheimer called Treasures…and a lot of the workers there could probably use some of Ms. Grillo’s advice and help. [Her website is www.iamatreasure.com if you would like to help or you or someone you know needs it]
I really enjoyed her study, and gained a lot of wisdom from it. I wanted to share some of what I learned on Day 4 of the plan, because it encompasses that idea of choosing to be a survivor instead of a victim. While her experience comes from traumatic abuse and experiences in the sex industry, what she talks about also applies to anyone overcoming a stroke or other injury or health issue.
On making that all-important choice, Ms. Grillo says “We get to choose whether or not we will remain a victim. We can’t change what happened to us yesterday but we can decide where we will go from here.” She affirms that you have to take responsibility for your life and make that choice to view yourself differently, as the stronger survivor. She says “Bestselling authors and psychologists, Dr. Cloud and Dr. Townsend, put it this way, ‘it’s not my fault if I get hit by a car, but it is my responsibility to learn to walk again.”
For those of us who have been in that position before, lying in a hospital bed, facing the frustrating (and painful) task of learning to walk again, that quote speaks volumes. Of course there are days when you don’t want to get up and do your physical therapy. Those are the days when a support structure is so important – when you need the people who love you reminding you that if you want to move on with life, be independent, and ever get out of that wheelchair, you HAVE to get out of that bed and put in the work it takes. Often it falls to your therapists to make you work through the pain, tears, and frustration…that’s why we so often start out hating them, only to appreciate them all the more later.
Those days when you want to lie in your bed playing the victim are the days you have to give yourself a pep talk (or do like I do, and get mad at yourself), and avow that you ARE NOT going to be lessened or made a victim by the circumstances in your life, but you are going to rise above them, and stand (or sit) atop them, using them for the better.
Ms. Grillo points to a story in John 5 where Jesus encounters a man who had been paralyzed for 38 years. Jesus asked him “Do you want to get well,” a question which the man answered with a litany of obstacles in his way. He was pointing fingers at others’ actions, and as she says, responding “with a victim mindset.”
Jesus replied with a command: “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” When the man did so, he was healed.
She believes Jesus asks all of us who have been victimized or gone through something traumatic that same question: “Do you want to get well?” As she wisely says “We can either continue to focus on the obstacles and find excuses that will keep us stuck in the conditions and mindsets that perpetuate our sense of victimhood, or we can stand up, take responsibility for what is ours, and walk towards freedom and healing.”
To summarize her closing, we can either continue justifying the way we are with excuses, or we can make the decision to get well. With God’s strength, when we choose to get well we have the ability to not only survive our victimization, but to completely overcome it. (Romans 8:37)
Wallowing in your victimhood, and using it as an excuse, won’t help you in any way – it only serves to hinder you from experiencing the life you are meant to enjoy. As Ms. Grillo states, your value does not lie in your victimhood. “We are not defined by the victimhood of our past.”
Whether you experienced traumatic abuse a decade ago, or a traumatic brain injury a week ago, I join Ms. Grillo in encouraging you to “Move forward to a place in your life where you can see yourself beyond the circumstances that made you a victim, and begin to see yourself as God sees you.”
God wants more for you than to be a victim, forever defined by the negative impacts on your life, and everyone deserves better than that. I wish I could remember where I first heard that there was a difference between stroke victims and stroke survivors, but the message resonates as strongly with me today as it did eleven years ago. I face every day as a survivor, knowing that no matter what, God has my back.
The struggles of life continue to this day, which is why it has been so long since my last post.
We found a better home for our sweet Miss Turtle, and she was warmly welcomed into the turtle habitat at the Children’s Museum of Houston. It was an emotional day for me, but as the children came up to see her in her box, and sweetly said “Welcome Miss Turtle!” as she got out and made her way to the water, my heart warmed at the realization of how much happier she’ll be there. No longer will she swim around, hitting the walls of a tank she outgrew. Now she can swim, eat fish and tadpoles (sorry, little tadpoles!), and bask in the sun whenever she wants. And for a turtle who loved to people watch so much, she now has an abundance of children and families coming to visit her, not to mention the people who work there, all of whom now know her and look out for her. The picture above was snapped by one of the girls there as Miss Turtle went out for a swim...she had been there a week and was doing well in her new home!
I can’t wait to take my nephew to visit her someday!
My husband and I found ourselves needing to get out of our drastically overpriced apartment (one reason for finding a new home for Miss Turtle), and a very stressful few weeks ensued as we got everything lined up to move to a smaller, cheaper place. Everything is cheaper now, which is a load off, but the stresses are never-ending, as they are for every breathing soul in this world. You try to remember those who have it even worse than you on the tougher days, and I always remember
I AM A SURVIVOR DAMNIT!!