Victim vs. Personal Responsibility

A long time ago, there was a concept in this Country that gave us great strength and, indeed, power. It was the concept of personal responsibility. The idea that you can work and earn. The idea of saving to buy. The notion that every dog has his day. These were all as American as apple pie. We are not yet a nation of whiny, spineless, cowards who are wishing for a broader definition of “victim” so that we too can be sheltered under that ever-expanding term.

There is, however, a growing chorus of people claiming to be victims of one -ism or another.

There are several problems with seeing yourself as a victim and we will start with power.


When you see yourself as a victim of an –ism you no longer have any power over your own life. You are now a pawn in a game controlled by others. When viewed from the idea of personal responsibility, your failures are a lesson and your success is your own work.

If your success is the result of your hard work, then your failures are attributable to some oversight, or mistake, or poor judgment on your part. This sounds bad, but in truth, it isn’t – because an oversight, mistake, and even poor judgment are correctable flaws and are still under your control! When you decide that your failure to reach your goals is the result of some outside force working against you, well…you can neither control your fate nor overcome the setback. All that is left for you is to complain and offer excuses.


When you feel that you control your fate, you have a motivation to try harder, to work more and to learn what it takes to be successful. Being in control over your life, having that power we mentioned above is a powerful motivating factor because we know that our success or failure is entirely in our hands. When your success depends on your own work, you will tend to work harder. When you are a victim, you will not try as hard, and as a result, you will necessarily experience less success. People who are motivated are always willing to give it one more try, or work those extra hours, or make necessary sacrifices in other parts of their life to achieve success. Victims…not so much.


When you achieve success after the hard work and the sacrifices, the reward is yours. And it means so much more than if it was given to you.

Example: My first vehicle was a 1967 Chevy 3/4 ton pick-up truck. It was beat-up, had paint that was starting to peel off, and it would grind horribly every time you tried to shift into 3rd gear. It had the original radio in it, which no longer worked, and no air-conditioning, which is a big deal in Texas with our nine month summers of 90 degree days and several weeks each year over 100 degrees. It took me several months and a lot of hard work to save the $1,000 that I paid for it.

But it was mine, and it was earned. Far from being embarrassed at how it looked, I was proud of it because it was mine. I remember how thrilled I was when a friend of mine who was a Teacher was changing schools and asked for my help and my truck to move her items from one school to another! No shame, but a great deal of pride.

Contrast that with a friend of mine who bought a car for her daughter. The daughter decided that she liked her mother’s car better, so they traded. Then the daughter wrecked her car and wanted to trade back. The mother traded, took the wreck and traded in on another car, for which the daughter demanded yet another trade. My friend initially refused this trade offer but relented after the daughter claimed that the mother was trying to keep her under her thumb (an asinine accusation). I don’t know where the story went after this because I stopped paying attention…ironically, I find drama to be quite boring.

Without being earned, the reward ceases to be a reward and becomes a bauble.

So the choice is yours; claim the mantle of victimhood, or get out there and work your butt off. The decision is yours, as well as the results of that decision.

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