Helping Victims Break the Cycle

When it comes to helping other people flourish, we are all asked to contribute one thing to the mission, our anguish.  True community is built on this simple premise.  Whatever I’ve gone through is to help the person now going through. God loves to take my anguish and turn it into someone’s answer. Paul said it this way.  “He (God) goes alongside us when we go through hard times, and before you know it, He brings us alongside someone else who is going through hard times so that we can be there for that person just as God was there for us” (2 Corinthians 1:4 MSG).

The first time Moses crossed the wilderness, he crossed it alone. This is how leadership usually starts.  Most leaders go through the same developmental pattern…the exile comes before the exodus. Being forced to travel the vast dehydrated sands of Sinai solo is a death sentence for most people, but God sustained Moses. He then rewards him with the “big ask”.

“Moses, I need you to go back and eat the same dirt twice”.

Once Moses caught his breath, he was told to return to Egypt and take the same journey again. Therein lies the secret to breaking the victim-cycle.

Victims tend to go though something once and then live the rest of their lives in that experience. I always encourage people walking through a dark place to take careful notes. There’s a strong chance God will ask you to take the journey twice. The first time as a learner…the second time as a leader.

The audacity of grace is that it promises to turn your scar tissue into influence. But the great risk with this plan is victimization. With mystifying regularity, I’m finding people who are making the wilderness their home. It’s not that their pain remains. It’s that they remain in their pain.

 Victims are notorious for 4 things.

  • They punish the next person for the actions of the previous person.
  • They invite self-pity to become the soul-squatter that never vacates.
  • They are deeply suspicious.
  • They believe retribution is the key to happiness.

For the victim, reconciliation is an afterthought. For the victim-leader this creates a menacing climate for those who look to them for leadership. There’s nothing more dangerous than a bitter person leading a just cause. For such an organization, team or church, the disillusionment skyrockets when people realize they’re following a bleeder instead of leader. Many who strive with a victim’s mentality see justice as the lone answer and never reach for the greater place of reconciliation; this shortfall gives their victimization a second life.

Justice is good, but it’s merely the baseline. It simply means the revenge has been removed. Reconciliation goes farther than justice because it removes the anxiety from our relationships and memories. Justice alone cannot break the victim-cycle. Which is why after the “justice” is achieved, many victims rarely find the courage to befriend anyone who represents their oppressions.

It’s true that tragedy and crisis are where most leaders are discovered, but it cannot be why they are promoted. Pain by itself is like a raw, unrefined fuel source. Our churches are filled with enormous reservoirs of unrefined pain that is waiting to be developed into something else.

Here are 3 ways for helping someone break the victimization cycle: 

Does this person belong in front of me or behind me? Negative circumstances belong in one of two places: either behind me as reconciled or in front of me as something to face and embrace. Satan is always trying to reverse these two realities. The devil is constantly trying to move around the past circumstances of my life like chess pieces. Satan wants to place back in front of me as unresolved the things God has forgiven and the people I have forgiven.

It’s a ploy called condemnation.

Satan constantly lies and tells you that forgiven sins are still in play, while simultaneously trying to lure you into a state of denial about the things you still need to deal with. He takes the things in front of you and places them behind you while placing the things behind you back in front of you. It’s a diabolical chess match designed to keep victims confused about where to put their efforts and minds. You must help people keep those things that are truly in their past behind them, while helping them defeat denial so they can face anything still unreconciled with God or man.

Whatever you can’t talk about owns you. You cannot be healed without talking. Convening and conversing in Biblical community is where wholeness and happiness happens. In Genesis chapter 43, Joseph is reunited after 20 years with the older brothers who had betrayed him, including his innocent youngest brother Benjamin. Joseph recognized them but they did not recognize him. It states in verse 34 that they all ate freely together.” In the following chapter, Joseph reveals himself. An emotional tsunami ensues. Joseph reassures them of his total forgiveness and then promises them lifelong lodging and food. It’s a reunion for the ages.

Once all the obstacles were removed, it states in Genesis 45:15 that Joseph and his brothers “spoke freely together.” It’s easy to mistake enjoyable social settings for genuine intimacy. A victim usually settles for the lesser of these two freedoms.  God wants us to do more than socialize and co-exist. His vision is that we love one another and speak freely, not just eat freely. 

 Accountability means that someone is now counting on you. You are wired by God to turn your negative experiences into purpose. People respond with goodness and bravery when they believe they are needed. Accountability is not about living under somebody’s microscope, but rather knowing that someone is waiting for your next move.  The best way to complete the circle of grace in your life is by turning past betrayal and injustice into acts of kindness and connection in real-time.  You do not need to become socially powerful in order to prove to the world that your wounds are healed. You only need the Lord to turn your woundedness into readiness.

Great leaders understand this.  They see potential in the outcast and are helping them move from dysfunction to well-being.  Because destiny is never instant, you have to excel in patience and mercy. People need  help, not more abandonment.

They need someone to walk with them…someone who’s willing eat dirt twice.



Note: For more leadership interaction I invite you to find me on the new smart phone app Periscope 

Written by Scott Hagan

Scott Hagan

Scott and his wife, Karen, are the founding pastors of Real Life Church in Sacramento, CA. Scott is also a regular columnist for Charisma Magazine and the Enrichment Journal. He has authored two books through Charisma House: They Walked With the Savior and They Felt the Spirit’s Touch. Scott holds a Masters Degree in Leadership from Azusa Pacific University.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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7 thoughts on “Helping Victims Break the Cycle

  1. Scott, one of the best articles I’ve read on the subject of overcoming the “victimization syndrome.” You’ve articulated some powerful steps to help every victim walk in victory. Thanks for you insightful and inspirational posts!

  2. Pastor scott I am amazed by your humbleness and your meekness, I’m so glad I attend RLC with a pastor who is truly grounded in the lord.bless you and may the holy sprite continue to guide you and keep you and your family. PS I’m praying for your voice and that God renews your strength as I know how busy you are

  3. Appreciate your insights Pastor Scott, especially these….”Many who strive with a victims mentality see Justice as the lone answer and never reach for the greater place of reconciliation” “Justice is good but it’s merely the baseline.” “Reconciliation goes farther than Justice because it removes the anxiety from our relationships and memories”….. So very true. Thank you for sharing.
    C Parrish

  4. This article is AMAZING and so rich with truth. Your words have helped me tremendously and are an inspiration on my personal journey.

  5. Scott, this is a real game changer sermon. Thank you for being bold to proclaim victory over broken pieces and places where our pain becomes our passion!