Victims or saints?

When are we victims and when are we truly giving our lives for others? Seen from the outside, the two behaviours are the same and can be confused. To distinguish one from the other the only certain criterion is to check not the external behaviour but to scrutinise the inner attitude.

  • A person is a victim when someone takes his or her life or property that is very precious to him or her, such as health, physical integrity, time, property, etc.
  • On the contrary, he acts with selfless virtue when he gives these and other goods… freely, without deception or pressure from anyone. Such an attitude sanctifies.

Jesus himself best illustrates this difference. At the moment when he was preparing for death, he freely offered his life and renounced his own rights accordingly, moved only by the salvation of mankind. He repeated over and over again like a mantra: “No one takes my life from me. I give it freely” (Jn 10: 18).

We must learn from this example Jesus gives us of a love that willingly denies itself to the point of death for love. But neither the Gospel nor the Church encourages victimhood! Sacrifice – and ultimately martyrdom – is not the object of a voluntary choice. It is either the fruit of love or it is useless, as St Paul would say.

We all take both positions at one time or another. No one escapes the injustices of life and no one, except a complete monster, goes through life without ever putting other people’s needs before his or her own.

The challenge of the gospel is to move from spiteful victims to joyful givers. It is true that the word “love” has been so overused that it no longer says much. We must understand, then, that true love – in the end, the only true love – is that which is willing to sacrifice itself for the good of others. And this comes at the cost of pain, the cost of the cross.

Do I play the victim, do I give myself wholeheartedly? These are two questions we can ponder during this Lenten season. We must ask them before Jesus, to whom we cannot hide the corners of our soul.

Jesus was not a bitter victim: he made that very clear in the garden of Gethsemane and again before Pilate: He decided to give up his own life. It was a free decision, made out of love. No one can take from you by force what you do not give freely.


Juan Carlos cmf

(PHOTO: Javardh)



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