The personal blog of Frank Lesko. Award-winning writer. Non-profit entrepreneur. Activist. Religious professional. Foodie. Musician. All around curious soul and Renaissance man.

See also my professional blog: The Traveling Ecumenist.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Tragic Irony--When the Victim Becomes the Victimizer

My uncle used to say that we become what we hate.

I always thought that was a dismal point of view. Sure, some people project, as a friend pointed out. And it may be true for some people, but for all?

Whether it is a universal trend or not, I will say that it is a risk for all of us if we leave our emotional hurt unhealed. See how it plays out:

Person 1

Imagine someone who has been continually controlled by her family. They were always in her business, disrespecting her privacy and lambasting her with all sorts of guilt to live the life that they wanted her to lead. They treated her like a marionette on a string. She even buys into their reasoning out of family obligation, at least partially.

As a result, she has gotten so frustrated from this control that she is determined not to let anyone else ever control her again. She locks her heart up tight. She doesn't do a single thing that she doesn't want to do. It's her life and she will live it as she wants.

The problem is that it is impossible to be in relationship with this person. Everything must go her way. It has to be on her terms, at her pace and when she is good and ready. The person struggling to free herself from obsessive, unreasonably controlling parents has now become the person who controls others. In her quest to make her life her own, she had made herself unable to bend with the people she is in relationship with. The only way to be in relationship with this person is to bend to accomodate them. You either do things on their terms or not at all.

Person 2

Imagine a person who is afraid of rejection. This shouldn't be too hard, since it is the story of many of us: We've been hurt in relationships or by our peers in school. We gave our heart and got it stomped on. What do we do? We withhold commitment from the next person. We love 'em and leave 'em. We flirt with intimacy, then pull back. We give our hearts in one conversation one day then vanish the next day. It's all duck and cover. The cruel twist is that we try to convince the other person that they are crazy to think there is anything unusual about this behavior. "What do you mean your heart is hurting? You are just trying to bind and shackle me!" Let's be honest: We're running like hell.

The result? The person who is afraid of rejection leaves a trail of rejected people in their wake. We always want to get them before they get us. The problem with this reasoning is that those people may never have rejected us in the first place! And the other problem is that we've now become the one who rejects.

Person 3

And let's not forget the peace activist who crusades against strong forces so much that he becomes . . . militant.

Doncha Think

This is dramatic irony right out of an Ancient Greek tragedy. There are no evil people, just folks caught up in this long chain of violence that goes back to the Garden of Eden. Every bit of hurt comes from another hurt before it. Yet, we have power to break the chain. We have the power to say that we won't perpetuate what's been perpetuated onto us. The chain of violence--that goes back tens of thousands of years--can stop with us.

ADDED LATER: This can be excruciating to face. It suggests that the people who have hurt us--the people we want to hate--may not be all that different from us. They may, in fact, be very similar. But as painful as this may be, it may also be the door which is cracked open on the road to healing. Because once you realize that your enemies aren't that different from you--and that the anger and pain which they are lashing out against the world may not be all that different from the same anger you are throwing out into the world--and that maybe they went through the same kinds of experiences that made them who they are just like you had experiences that made you were you are--it can be the true foundation for true reconciliation, for health and healing.

"for he saw his enemies like unto himself . . . and then he was answered."
Moody Blues, The Balance

ADDED EVEN LATER: Here are some more examples:

A woman is determined to make it in the male dominated workplace. In order to succeed, she tries to be stronger, more aggressive, more demanding, more cutting, and more dominant than any man she can find. She assumes this is how it is in the male-dominated workplace, and maybe she's right and maybe she's exaggerating. The end result: She becomes what she did not want others to be to her.

And this is where we come to so-called reverse discrimination. In our culture, it has become fashionable to people who were oppressed to lash out against their oppressors--usually white people, or men, and most often it is white men. Victims of racism and other prejudice lash out with white men stereotypes, jokes, and feel it is okay to discriminate against white men to make up for what white men did (even though the white men who did that are usually long dead, with only a portion of their oppressive culture still alive today).

Is reverse discrimination just a justifiable balancing out that is needed? Or is it the fact that the victims have become the victimizers? Have they assumed the traits of the people they are fighting against?

This is why I oppose "reverse discrimination." To me, it is just regular ole discrimation--nothing "reverse" about it. Sure, the white man can take a few blows and we'll be alright. But unfairness is unfairness. Rudeness is still rudeness. And spiritual health is still spiritual health. Reverse discrimination isn't spiritual health. It isn't fair. And it often victimizes people who didn't do anything wrong in the first place.

1 comment:

  1. I think we all fall victim to these at one point or another. Sometimes recovering from one loss is harder than another.