For the past year I’ve seen a constant barrage of people in the news wanting to play the victim. You’ll notice I’m not pointing the finger at any specific person or group or list anyone who has been in the news who is not guilty of this, so anyone who came to your mind when I said I’ve seen a barrage of people in the news wanting to feel like a victim, that’s you categorizing them as this and not me – do you like how I’m trying to avoid being accused of attacking anyone? But this constant victim card mentality is incredibly dangerous for everyone because victimhood never leads to growth and healing. When bad things happen we have a choice of being a victim or the victor. It’s good to grieve and to try to prevent what knocked us down again, but there comes a point where we need to get back up again and keep going to be the victor. I just read a kids story to my three year old, After the Fall: How Humpty Dumpty Got Back Up Again. Isn’t that a great concept? Instead of focusing on the fall, how did he live his life after? This idea follows a statement I recently heard and liked: Fear and Happiness can’t coexist. We can’t live in fear (or feel sorry for ourselves) and also be happy. This follows another great concept I was once told: treat your emotions like guests to your house; we need to let them in for a visit, and then let them leave. We need to let emotions like fear and sadness visit once in awhile, but then we need to let them go in order to let other emotions like happiness visit. You’ll even notice that I’m suggesting happiness should only visit because we need to experience all of the emotions God has blessed us with once in awhile. Never feeling scared, sad, or mad and only feeling happy doesn’t make us healthy; it makes us crazy.
The best thing we can do to fight our negative feelings and be a victor who lives a life of happiness is to work on our ability to be thankful. The better we get at finding things to be thankful for, even in tough times, the less painful those times will feel and the less fear we’ll have for possibly facing them again in the future. This is a concept that has been taught in Christianity for over two thousand years: “Be thankful in circumstances, for this is God’s will for you…” (1 Thes 5:18a). Unfortunately, some Christians struggle with thankfulness because they’re plagued by guilt and fear, but that isn’t what God wants from us. He wants us to find happiness: “My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.” (John 10:10b) People have asked me, “If God knows everything, why should someone pray?” and the simple answer is we don’t pray for God’s benefit, but for our own. On top of the fact it can be very bonding when we pray with or for someone, it reminds us that we’re not alone, there’s more out there than this moment, and that we need to be saying thank you.
One of the best ways to be thankful is to consider how we are blessed or “privileged” to sound less religious. We are all privileged in different ways and recognizing this can give us strength and encouragement. By acknowledging how we’re privileged can help us be thankful, which will help us be happier. A great exercise is to write 10 ways in which you’re privileged – you’ll likely be surprised how easy it is once you start. For instance, I’m privileged to be born in the 80s, so I got to see the growth of technology from Atari and VHS to the start of the internet to what we have now. I was young enough to appreciate all the changes unlike my parents who found it more overwhelming and I’m old enough to know what life was like before technology ruined so many good things. There’s nothing like social media to remind you how much smarter, talented, or richer other people in the world are, which makes it harder to recognise how privileged we are. At the same time, however, social media has its benefits – hence I’m writing a blog.
I’m also privileged to be born and raised in Canada where the dominant language is the most universal language in the world. Considering how terrible I am at learning languages and how much I love Hollywood, which is an English speaking world, I’m very lucky. Canada as a whole is amazing. When my dad had an emergency triple by-pass surgery, it didn’t financially ruin our family and we lived a twenty minute drive from the hospital when we wanted to visit during his recovery. When you live in Canada, it’s easy to take things for granted like healthcare, education, social assistance, retail options, and not having slums like in other countries. Sure we have poor areas, but we don’t have slums. I don’t even have to kill my own food or rely on my gardens to feed me. I don’t have to worry about car bombs or terrorist attacks like in other countries where they have troops with massive guns in the streets to warn off threats. We can trust banks to protect our money even if they get robbed and I can use a card to pay for things, so there’s less reason for someone to mug me. We’re so blessed we’re able to have pets and be asked to help other countries where they need fresh water. We are so privileged to be here. A few years ago, I did a wedding for a couple where the bride grew up in Iran. After talking to her, trust me, we are very privileged.
Despite all of the wonderful privileges I have had like being raised in the country and having a sister and brother who are my best friends, the other day I was talking to a friend and it hit me that two of my most significant privileges that have helped me achieve all that I have was growing up with parents who had a solid marriage with limited money (it’s good not to get everything you want) and having a dad who was educated and wanted to help his kids with their education.
I’ll be the first to admit, my IQ is limited and I’m terrible at paperwork. I’m so bad at paperwork, the night before my undergrad university signup sheet was due, my sister asked if I filled it out and I didn’t realize I had to submit anything. In fact, I was so oblivious to it, she asked because she found the papers in the garbage! I’m that dumb and terrible at paperwork. On the plus side, this weakness pushed me to use my creativity and develop humor as a way to compensate for my inability to retain information and follow detailed rules. (Is a limited IQ a privilege?) Despite my limitations and unique strengths, I never would’ve been able to screw up my paperwork for university if my dad hadn’t helped me be good enough to go to university in the first place. When I was in grade seven, my dad started going over my writing and my abilities skyrocketed. His editing and one-to-one help made a major difference between me being a top student and not at the bottom. As he helped me with my writing, I got better marks, which gave me more confidence and drive to push me to continue getting higher marks.
Interesting fact for parents, one of the best things for me was going to my sister’s grade eight graduation when I was finishing grade four. After seeing one student dominate the awards, my competitive drive was inspired. I could never be him (I do have a limited IQ), but my marks significantly jumped up in grade five as I wanted to be like him. My drive for good marks two years later led to asking my dad for help and then my path to university and ability to get to grad school was set.
It’s easy to see scary things in our lives and to think about worst case scenarios, but we need to limit how much time we spend on fear and feeling sorry for ourselves and start to acknowledge how lucky we are because we are all privileged in our own ways. Sometimes the bad is easier to see, but there is good in all things if we look for it. I certainly didn’t feel privileged when my dad hacked apart my papers and I felt super stupid redoing them, but those times of struggle led to the life I know and value. At the time it can be hard to see the good, but it’s still there.
May this post inspire you to see how blessed you are to help combat the negative feelings you may have.
Rev Chad David, ChadDavid.ca, learning to love dumb people (like me)