Victim Mentality

Biblical Examples

Prodigal Son's Older Brother Plays the Victim

Luke 15:11-32 (NET)
25 “Now his older son was in the field. As he came and approached the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he called one of the slaves and asked what was happening. 27 The slave replied, ‘Your brother has returned, and your father has killed the fattened calf because he got his son back safe and sound.’ 28 But the older son became angry and refused to go in. His father came out and appealed to him, 29 but he answered his father, ‘Look! These many years I have worked like a slave for you, and I never disobeyed your commands. Yet you never gave me even a goat so that I could celebrate with my friends! 30 But when this son of yours came back, who has devoured your assets with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’

Tamar is Raped and Possibly Remains a Victim for Life

2 Samuel 13:1-22 (NET)

10 Then Amnon said to Tamar, “Bring the cakes into the bedroom; then I will eat from your hand.” So Tamar took the cakes that she had prepared and brought them to her brother Amnon in the bedroom. 11 As she brought them to him to eat, he grabbed her and said to her, “Come on! Get in bed with me, my sister!”

12 But she said to him, “No, my brother! Don’t humiliate me! This just isn’t done in Israel! Don’t do this foolish thing! 13 How could I ever be rid of my humiliation? And you would be considered one of the fools in Israel! Just speak to the king, for he will not withhold me from you.” 14 But he refused to listen to her. He overpowered her and humiliated her by raping her. 15 Then Amnon greatly despised her. His disdain toward her surpassed the love he had previously felt toward her. Amnon said to her, “Get up and leave!”

16 But she said to him, “No I won’t, for sending me away now would be worse than what you did to me earlier!” But he refused to listen to her. 17 He called his personal attendant and said to him, “Take this woman out of my sight and lock the door behind her!” 18 (Now she was wearing a long robe, for this is what the king’s virgin daughters used to wear.) So Amnon’s attendant removed her and bolted the door behind her. 19 Then Tamar put ashes on her head and tore the long robe she was wearing. She put her hands on her head and went on her way, wailing as she went.

20 Her brother Absalom said to her, “Was Amnon your brother with you? Now be quiet, my sister. He is your brother. Don’t take it so seriously!” Tamar, devastated, lived in the house of her brother Absalom.

The Paralyzed Man at the Pool Acted Like a Victim

John 5:1-15 (NET)

After this there was a Jewish feast, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool called Bethzatha in Aramaic, which has five covered walkways. A great number of sick, blind, lame, and paralyzed people were lying in these walkways. Now a man was there who had been disabled for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and when he realized that the man had been disabled a long time already, he said to him, “Do you want to become well?” The sick man answered him [notice the man does not answer "Yes" or "No", just his story looking for sympathy as a victim], “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up. While I am trying to get into the water, someone else goes down there before me.” Jesus said to him, “Stand up! Pick up your mat and walk.” Immediately the man was healed, and he picked up his mat and started walking.


What Defines a Victim Mentality? [1]

Failure to accept responsibility
This person will do anything to absolve him/herself from personal responsibility for any aspect of their lives. This results in the following symptom.

The Serial Blamer
This person absolves themselves from responsibility by apportioning blame to any other party, other than themselves. They usually develop the following skill.

The victim is adept at drawing creatively from circumstance to apportion blame to external factors. They use all their creative energies to construct a perfect prison for themselves. This construct results in the next symptom.

Feeling Helpless
If you say something often enough you will start to believe it, victims start believing this fairytale construct that their minds have designed to keep them safe from their own accountability, this results in extreme feelings of helplessness and isolation. This then results in our next symptom.

Victims often feel sorry for themselves, this is a vicious cycle where the serial blamer and rationalizer then begin to feed more self-pity by continuing the cycle creating more antagonistic forces that strip choice away. They often resort to:

Living in the Past
A failure to accept responsibility means a failure to accept things as they are in the present. This person will then, either seek peace in the past, where things were “more simple” or again, resort to blaming the past for the current state of their environment. They tend to:

Focus on the Problems
They occupy themselves with problems and are often the people who complain at any opportunity they get. Victims love attention and validation and will relish any chance to complain about their problems. During this complaint fit they will often say,

If only/What if
This is a sure sign of a victim mentality, they do not accept things and support regrets like a crucifix. They then continue the cycle by,

Condemning Themselves
Woe is me, I am useless, there are too many forces against me, if only things were easier, just like in the good old days. A summation of a victim’s thought pattern, cleverly disguised by the rationalizer and the blamer. It will often sound more like this.
“I tried my best, but my best just wasn’t good enough, the wind was blowing in the opposite direction.”

Separation of Self
Victims separate themselves from anything that resembles responsibility and as such they are separate from the solution. They are as good playing the waiting game as they are at playing the blame game.


  or click on Titles

In chapter 5 of the book of John, Jesus found a man by a pool, where he and many others lay sick and diseased in various ways. The location was Bethesda, a supernatural site where an angel would come down and stir up the waters. When this angel would swoop down and touch the waters, the first person to jump in was healed of whatever disease they had. Talk about an amazing opportunity for instant healing! Jesus walked up to a man who had been afflicted with an infirmity for thirty eight years.

John writes, “When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he already had been in that condition a long time, He said to him, ‘Do you want to be made well?“’ (John 5:6 NKJV – emphasis added).

The first thing we can see here is that Jesus knew that this man did not get sick a week ago. This disease had gripped this man for most of his life. One thing Jesus could know is that someone who has a disease for a long time can end up wrapping their identity around their disease. What comes against us can end up becoming a part of our identity if we are not discerning.

The question Jesus asks confronts the victim mindset right from the start. When you read this account, it seems as though Jesus is being a little uncaring, at least by our modern day standards. He doesn’t ask for the man’s story. No intake done at all regarding what factors got him to this place. His question hits to the core of the man’s heart and motivation. “Do you want to be made well?” He cuts right to the heart of the matter, “Do you really want to be healed?

The key question is, ‘Do you really want to be healed?'

To the average reader, this seems like the dumbest question in the world! Who would want to stay sick? As a reader, I am answering the question for the man before he can even speak, “Yes! Yes! Just say yes!” We don’t see that, but instead hear victimization telling Jesus a story. “The sick man answered Him, ‘Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; but while I am coming, another steps down before me’” (John 5:7).

Jesus didn’t ask that. He just needed a yes or no answer. Victimization doesn’t answer that, because it would draw a line in the sand of what would be required from this day forward. If he says yes, then he is personally responsible from now on. If he says no, he looks like a fool to everyone. So instead, he gives a list of reasons why he hasn’t been able to get into the pool.

Do We Really Want Healing?

Let’s be honest, if he really wanted to be healed, he could pay someone or even bribe someone. “Hey buddy, next time the angel comes, I’ll owe you a thousand dollars if you run and shove me into those waters. Give it all you got and I’ll pay you back when I get back on my feet. I’ll get a job and earn plenty of money to make it worth your while. Anything….anything to just get in that water. If I don’t make it this month, then help me next time. Whatever it takes. Get me in that water!” Instead, he was so bound that his answer was . . . the story.

Instead of answering “yes” or “no,” to help, the victim only gave “the story.”

All of us, if not careful, can carry a story within us that is not the story God has given. The story we carry can be littered with chapters of unhealed pain, distorted perspectives and limited thinking. We can carry that story into many different situations, projecting it onto future encounters. The man had a chance to address his story and replace it with the story that Christ was bringing to him—a story of healing and wholeness. It is the same story God is bringing to us today, but we have to ask ourselves the same question. Do I really want to be healed?

All of us, if not careful, can carry a story within us that is not the one God has given for us.

I have sat down with many people who were looking for healing of a debilitating disease in their life. They came to me to see if we could get to the root of what may be making and keeping them sick. I have often had the uncomfortable conversation, asking them, “Do you really want to be healed?”

They look back at me like I am crazy. “Of course Mark. Of course we want to be healed! That’s ridiculous!”

Then I say, “Well, are you willing to give up your disability check if you get healed and no longer have this disease?” A moment of silence falls as they ponder how their disease has actually developed into a whole world of needed provisions that may be challenging to let go of.

I am not trying to knock getting financial or medical help. That is not the point here. I am getting to the root of whether or not they really want to be healed, because with healing comes a new lifestyle and an entirely new way of living. A lot of times people want the healing, but don’t want to embrace what a healed life looks like. That is what a victim promotes: rescuing with very little personal participation.

Walking into Wholeness

Jesus heals the man, but the Bible doesn’t say that He just healed him, but makes him whole. God is actually interested in all around wholeness. For most, we think the story is over and we move on to the next event. But Jesus actually runs into him at the temple and gives him a very interesting instruction. Afterward Jesus found him in the temple, and said to him, “See, you have been made well. Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you.” John 5:14. Jesus was making sure he understood that he was healed despite his sin issues, but that if he didn’t watch out the sin issue could rise up again, and he would be sicker than before.

”When we live as victims, we carry unbelief, which denies the possibility of our situation being changed.”

Yikes. That’s a tough thing for most Christians to hear, because we hate the idea of disease being the result of sin issues. We avoid that subject at all costs, especially because of people who have taught on the subject with heavy condemnation and guilt. But we can’t negate that Jesus warned the man firmly, guard this wellness you have been given. Watch how you are thinking so that you don’t fall into the old patterns that made you and kept you sick.

I propose to you that one of the sin issues this man carried was that he saw all of life as a victim, which gave no room for love, hope and faith to operate fully in his life. When we live as victims, we carry unbelief, which denies the possibility of our situation being changed. We lose hope and believe the lie that we have no more options. Just like the man who was healed, we need to understand that we need to live as a victor, not as a victim. Oftentimes, part of our healing process involves renouncing the sin of a victim mindset.

Question: How easy can it be for a victim mentality and self-pity to creep in? How do you help someone who has self-pity working in their life? 

Mark DeJesus, "How Jesus Addressed the Victim Mentality", published Oct 4, 2014,

When our needs for love, security, worth, or significance are not met, we attempt to meet these needs through depending on ourselves, relying on others, trying to control others, or using substances or things to make us happy.  Today, in the recovery movement, this is called codependency.  This term was originally coined to refer to a person married to an addict who was somehow dependent on the addict continuing to drink or use drugs.  However, this excessively dependent or independent pattern is now recognized to be much more widespread in our society and has been identified as the underlying cause of numerous other problems.

Probably everyone in our society has a number of codependent characteristics, but for at least one-fourth or more of our population, these characteristics have become a predominant pattern of coping that result in dysfunctional relationships.  In the United States and much of Europe, we teach codependent principles from the cradle up with nursery stories like Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty, our romantic and Country Western music, and our movies.  After discussing codependency, one pastor who primarily works with lower income families stated, "That's everyone in my congregation."  Codependency makes up a large part of the psychological dysfunction that occupies a position between normal or healthy, and the mental disorders described in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM IV).

Victim Mentality - Codependent Relationship Avoidance

The codependent relationship avoidant many times begins life in her family of origin as the “lost child,” and has been so badly hurt in intimate relationships that she avoids them, and spends the rest of her life as a victim looking for society or someone else to vindicate her or take revenge on her perceived abusers.  The problem of Codependent Relationship Avoidance is best described in the story of Tamar, the daughter of King David.  Her story begins in 2nd Samuel Chapter 13.

1.  God’s plan for codependent avoidants is that they have a victorious life even under difficult circumstances.   Instead, they see life as oppressed, emotionally broken, and a victim.  Sometimes they develop a proud, defiant attitude.  Tamar’s name means “palm tree” which in the Bible typifies victory under adverse circumstances. (Wilson, 1957)   She is the daughter of Maacah which means “oppression,” who was the granddaughter of Talmai which means “furrowed or broken up.”  Talmai was the king of Greshur, which means “proud beholder.”

2.  Because of extremely negative experiences, usually by people they trusted who have taken advantage or excessive liberty with them, they withdraw in fear from relationships.  David’s firstborn son, Amnon, wanted to have sex with Tamar, his half-sister.  His friend Jonadab suggested a plan.  Jonadab means liberty.  King David was unknowingly brought into the plot.  I believe that this suggests that David’s sexual sin with Bathsheba was being repeated in the next generation.  David even directed Tamar to go to Amnon’s house.

3.  Many times they start out as naive “good girls’’ who are set up to be hurt.  Tamar naively went to Amnon’s house, fixed food for him, and even went into his bedroom without suspecting anything. 

4.  They want to do what is right but are ashamed about the abuse they have suffered.  They allow the abuse it to affect their self-image. Tamar complained in 2nd Samuel 13:13, “And I, whither shall I cause my shame to go?”  She even suggests that David might allow them to marry. 

5.  Sometimes the abuser will even despise the codependent, because they seem so weak and passive.  In 2nd Samuel 13:15, it states that “Amnon hated her exceedingly; so that the hatred wherewith he hated her [was] greater than the love wherewith he had loved her.” Subsequently, Amnon threw her out.   

6.  They are usually abused again and again.  She made it clear that the evil of sending her away was greater than the rape itself.  Statistics suggest that women that have been raped once have a 200% greater chance of being raped again than a person who never has been raped before.

7.  Because they allow the shame to affect how they perceive themselves, it goes deep within their character, and they become desolate and withdraw from close relationships.  Tamar ripped the garment she was wearing (her character), put ashes on her head (shame for the past), laid her hand on her head (actions based on how she feels).  She took the shame for the injustice perpetrated on her.  Her brother Absalom suggested that she hide what happened and took her into his home.  When shame is hidden, it turns to toxic shame—I am a bad person.  In 2nd Samuel 13:20, it states that, “Tamar remained desolate in her brother Absalom's house.” 

8.  Through a victim mentality and pity-party, they seek someone to take up their cause.  King David, who should have defended her as her father, was angry but did nothing.  I believe that she recruited her brother Absalom who became her avenger and killed Amnon two years later.  Again David was unwittingly used in the plot (suggesting a generational tie to his sin with Bathsheba), and Jonadab (liberty) had a hand in it.  

9.  The consequences fall on the avenger and all who try to help the codependent relationship avoidant.  Although it was Tamar who was originally abused and sought vengeance, Absalom was blamed for killing Amnon and had to flee for his life.

10.  The codependent relationship avoidant will help from behind the scenes but only as part of an alliance.  Tamar’s part in this plot is clear when we realize that Absalom escaped to stay with Talmai, Tamar’s grandfather.  Absalom also named his daughter Tamar. 

11.  Her anger and a desire for vengeance will eventually be turned on those who they perceive failed to protect or bring justice for them.  After Amnon’s death, Tamar’s anger turned against David.  I believe she instigated Absalom’s rebellion against their father, King David.  He barely escaped with his life.  Absalom’s complaint against King David was that he failed to carry out justice.  He felt he could do better himself. (2 Sam 15:4) It is interesting to note that victims of abuse are usually angrier with the person who should have protected them than they are at the abuser himself. 

12. The codependent relationship avoidant views the entire matter as an attempt to seek justice; but, in fact, she is seeking to justify herself and to get revenge on her abusers.  Absalom brought Ahithophel, David’s advisor, into the conspiracy.  Ahithophel was also seeking revenge.  He was Bathsheba’s grandfather.  David had committed adultery with Bathsheba and had killed her husband Uriah to cover up his sin.  When Ahithophel realized that his vengeance against David would not succeed because Absalom would not follow his advice, he committed suicide. 

13.  Because he believes he has been recruited into a “just” cause, even the objectivity of the rescuer is distorted,  Instead of listening to Ahithophel, Absalom listened to Hushai the Archite, one of David’s best friends.  Absalom probably also justified what he was doing because in biblical times it was the brother’s duty to protect his sisters.  Somehow, he seems to have forgotten that he was also to honor his father.  He even had sex with his Father’s concubines on the roof of the palace.  

14. The “rescuer” ends up paying the price for his attempt to obtain vengeance for the codependent avoidant.  When Absalom lost the battle to David’s men, his head and hair (pride) became caught in an oak tree (which stands for “bitter sorrow”).  Joab thrust three darts through his heart and killed him.  It is the rescuer who pays the price for the bitterness of the victim. 

15.  The rescuer will only be remembered as being a monument to the “fruitlessness” of doing for others what they should be doing for themselves.  In 2nd  Samuel 18:18 we are told, “Now Absalom in his lifetime had taken and reared up for himself a pillar, which [is] in the king's dale: for he said, I have no son to keep my name in remembrance: and he called the pillar after his own name: and it is called unto this day, Absalom's place.” 

Healing the Relationship Avoidant

Unfortunately, as far as we know, Tamar never recovered from her codependency.  In order to find the solution for the codependent relationship avoidant client, we must turn to the New Testament and the ministry of Jesus.  First, let us review in John Chapter 5 the problem that we find at the Pool of Bethesda and then observe how Jesus handled it. 

1.  The underlying factor in codependent relationship avoidance is an extreme level of human neediness.   We are told that at the pool of Bethesda there were five porches.  Five stands for the weakness of every human being.  Bethesda means “house of mercy.” 

2.  Codependent relationship avoidants are waiting for a miracle because they see themselves in an impossible situation.  Relationship avoidants are afraid that if they get emotionally close to healthy people they will be rejected and hurt again.  They know that they need relationships, but because they do not want to be hurt again, they will only relate to those with problems like their own.  At the Pool of Bethesda, there were only other dysfunctional needy people.  They all believed that somehow an angel was going to come, stir up the water, and heal them.  Relationship avoidants are usually mad at God for not doing a miracle and healing them in the manner that they want to be healed.  Deep down, however, they really do not believe that it will happen.  They are too worthless for God to want to help them.  To them, this is obvious because if He loved them; He would have already healed them a long time ago. 

3.  If relationship avoidants are not looking for vengeance, they are consumed with a  “pity party,” spending their years hopelessly complaining.  The man in this story had been crippled for 38 years and was just sitting around with other crippled people (probably complaining). 

4.  The first question to be answered is whether they really want to be whole.  Pity loves company, and commiseration has its benefits.  In John 5:6, Jesus asked him, “Wilt thou be made whole?”  Many homeless people begin to “enjoy” their role as a victim and their “freedom” from responsibility and close relationships.  It all feels so safe.  If they became healthy they would be expected to be responsible and have healthy relationships, the very things they fear the most. 

5.  Codependent avoidants have an excuse for everything.  The crippled man answered Jesus that the reason he was not healed was because no one helped him so that he could be the first one into the water to be healed.  He saw the problem as a lack of help, not a lack of initiative.  (If he really believed he would be healed, He could have sat at the edge of the pool and fell in when the water was stirred.)  Avoidants see everything as somebody else’s fault;  never their own. 

6.  Jesus has the power and the desire to make them whole if they are willing.  Jesus told him that if he was to be healed, he would have to do his part by first acting according to his faith.  When He believed and took up his bed, he was able to walk.  When codependent avoidants are willing to face their fears and do their part, healing will quickly follow.

7.  Codependent avoidant are looking for someone to tell him what to do; so that if it fails, they can blame them and avoid responsibility.  The Jews complained that Jesus had healed and had told the man to carry his bed (which they considered work) on the Sabbath Day.  The man blamed Jesus. 

8.  They become angry when confronted with the fact that what they are doing is sin.  Jesus later found him in the temple and warned him to quit sinning.  He responded by telling the Jews that it was Jesus who was to be blamed for telling him to work (take up his bed) on the Sabbath day.  Confronting and helping codependent avoidants should be done with caution. 

It is usually a clear indication that your client is a codependent relationship avoidant when they want you to take responsibility for directly fixing their problem or guarantee their safety.  The counselor must be extremely careful that they do not allow the client to become overly dependent on them.  If this occurs, and the counselor does not do what they ask, all the pent up rage from the past abuse may become displaced on the counselor.  Since the real issue is fear of rejection caused by abuse or injustice, the client needs to be helped to address the abuse and then to progressively take action to face the fear.  If appropriate, he can seek redress of his wrongs himself, according to biblical principles.  In many cases, the client will have to forgive and grieve the past losses before he is able to put his past behind him.  He needs to learn to give up his perceived right for vengeance, trust God, and put his situation into God’s hands.  Only God is able to bring true justice.  As resources, I use The Wounded Heart (1990) by Allender and an appropriate codependent workbook. 

Steps for  Overcoming Codependent Relationship Avoidance

1.    The overall problem is a fear of rejection causing the client to avoid situations in which he might be rejected or to find someone to help him get revenge for past rejections or abuse.

2.    He must take responsibility for his own life.  Others must refuse to do for him what he could do for himself, especially taking responsibility for redressing his wrongs.

3.    The client must repent from his desire to protect himself at all costs and quit blaming others for not protecting or meeting his needs.

4.    He must realize that he is powerless without God to meet his own needs or bring true justice to his situation.

5.    He must repent of his own sin, low self-image, defensiveness, reliance on others, and desire for getting personal revenge.

6.    The client must cry out to God for justice, become willing to forgive past hurts, take responsibly for his part in the rejections or abuse, and, if the offender repents, be willing to reconcile with the abuser or those who failed to protect him.  

7.    The client must see himself as God sees him—not as a victim, but through the help of God, as an overcomer—and be thankful to God, and willing to obey Him.

8.    The client must start doing what he can do for himself to build healthy relationships, set healthy boundaries, and trust God to make him adequate for every task. 

Faith Therapy, "Biblical Answers for Victim Mentality",

The Dependent . . . gives up personal responsibility in many areas of life and uses helplessness to get support from others. This disguise for protection sends the message “I need you” and in adulthood becomes a powerful means of controlling and manipulating others.

The Pleaser . . . has the motto “peace at any price.” By constant compliance with the wishes or desires of others, this individual pays a high price for approval and acceptance. As an adult, the pleaser has lost a great deal of personal identity.

The Fixer . . . has low self-worth and attempts to fix it by becoming responsible for and fixing others. Fixers are seen as very loving, self-sacrificing, and spiritual— though often these traits are window dressing used to avoid seriously addressing their own needs.

The Performer . . . as an adult, appears highly competent and seems to have it all together. A perfect performance for every act is the performer’s unattainable goal. Although there is a certain amount of personal satisfaction in doing so much so well, this person is inwardly paralyzed by the fear of being found to have inadequacies.

The Controller . . . feels secure only when in control. As an adult, the controller comes across as thinking he/she is always right and, for the most part, looking good. A fear of vulnerability is what makes this wounded lamb act like a lion.

The Martyr . . . is a great and constant sufferer. Anyone who has been abused needs and deserves the compassion of others. The martyr, however, controls others by continuing to elicit compassion for a childhood sacrificed to devastating abuse.

Hope for the Heart, "Victimization - Quick Reference",

More Info...




1. Defi(g)nition, "10 Signs of a Victim Mentality",