The victim mentality – a vicious cycle.
Lesson 19 from The HOPE Study Guide
Before Adam and Eve ate of the fruit – And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.
– Genesis 2:25
After – Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loin coverings. And they heard the sound of the Lord walking in the garden in the cool of day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. Then the Lord God called to the man, and said to him, “Where are you?” And he said, “I heard the sound of Thee in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid myself.” And He said, “Who told you that you were naked?” Have you eaten from the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” And the man said, “The woman whom Thou gave to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate.” Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” And the woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”
– Genesis 3:7–13
Then she gave the fruit to Adam, and he ate. And immediately, they were aware of their nakedness and they were ashamed. Something terrible had happened. Something had changed … Adam and Eve tried to hide from God, and to get rid of their shame by covering themselves with leaves. But this did not work, for their problem was not outward, but inward. Shame is the result of sin, and sin was at work in them like a poison.
– The HOPE, Chapter 3
OBSERVE & CONSIDER
Before eating the forbidden fruit, there is no indication that Adam and Eve had ever known shame1 (Genesis 2:25). After they disobeyed God, they saw their nakedness and for the first time felt exposed and vulnerable. So they tried to cover themselves. Then they tried to hide themselves from God. Why? Because they were afraid. They may have been afraid of God’s response, but they were actually hiding themselves from the only One who could really help them, the very One they needed the most.
It is very interesting that God would ask, “Where are you?” God is all knowing. He knew where Adam and Eve were hiding. But His question was not just rhetorical. He was bringing Adam and Eve face to face with the result of their sin. The question “Where are you?” takes on a much greater meaning if applied to their spiritual condition more than their physical location. They were at a desperate place, and God’s question was like holding up a mirror. They needed to recognize the seriousness of their situation.
Notice what happens next, when they are “found.” Adam blames Eve, and Eve blames Satan. Shame was one of the first fruits of sin, and blame was a direct result.
ASK & REFLECT
As was the case with Adam and Eve, shame can keep us from dealing honestly with an issue and from getting the help we need to resolve the issue. Shame can make a person want to withdraw, or even hide, which only makes matters worse. And then there often comes blame: “It’s his fault that I’m in this situation.” This is known as a victim mentality. The danger in this thinking is that it becomes an excuse to avoid personal responsibility, either for getting into the situation or getting out of the situation. A “victim” often believes the situation cannot change.
Unchecked shame and blame can become a vicious cycle. This cycle can be triggered by things as small as minor incidents at home or in the work place, or by major life struggles such as an addiction or a broken relationship. However it begins, the cycle usually continues until something or someone moves us to do a reality check, bringing us face to face with the question, “Where are you?” And we realize that if we remain in that place, it is not because we are a victim, but because we are choosing to do so.
Perhaps you should set aside some time to ask yourself the following questions. Or better yet, allow God to ask, “Where are you?” in regard to these questions.
- Do I have shame? What is the cause? (Even if it is only minor, most people have experienced shame at some time in life. And if shame exists, the underlying issue is not yet resolved. Something so small as an unkept promise or a little white lie can produce shame.)
- Am I withdrawing or avoiding something or someone because of shame?
- Am I blaming anyone for anything in my life when I should be accepting responsibility for my own actions? Sometimes people even blame God for a difficult situation (i.e. “This is just my lot in life.”), when in reality God really wants to lead them to a better place.
DECIDE & DO
Today’s subject matter may be difficult to deal with. But please understand that the writers of this material would not have visited the subject of shame without the deepest conviction that God has the complete and absolute answer to the problem. In fact, what was true with Adam and Eve is true with us today. God is the only One who can resolve the problem of shame.
If you have visited the sections at the end of this study, then you know that God completely dealt with the cause of shame, which is sin, at the cross of Jesus. Shame can be a problem for those who are following God as well as those who do not yet know Him. Whatever your situation may be, if you are dealing with shame, then don’t put off dealing with God. Visit the sections at the end of this study, and allow God to visit you.
FOR FURTHER STUDY
- Shame from a Biblical Perspective (InterVarsity Christian Fellowship/USA, 2006). Retrieved October 5, 2006.
- Life Recovery Bible, New Living Translation. According to the Amazon.com blurb, “Designed for both the Christian who is seeking God’s view on recovery and the non–Christian who is seeking God and answers to recovery, the Life Recovery Bible will lead readers to the source of true healing–God himself. The features of this best–selling Bible were brought together by two of today’s leading recovery experts, David Stoop, Ph.D., and Stephen Arterburn, M.Ed.” (http://www.amazon.ca/Life–Recovery–Bible–Nlt–David–Stoop/dp/084233341X). Retrieved October 5, 2006.
- Bruce Thomas, The Gospel for Shame Cultures: A Paradigm Shift. For further reading in more depth on this area of shame and the gospel, this article appeared in the July 1994 Evangelical Missions Quarterly. (http://www.internetevangelismday.com/shame-cultures.php). Retrieved October 5, 2006.
1Shame [Definition]. (© Merriam–Webster Online Dictionary, 2006). (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/shame).
Retrieved October 19, 2006.
Scripture quotations taken from the NASB