Blaming everyone and everything but yourself for the crappy things in your life is is typically referred to as “playing the victim.” It’s a popular way to respond when things don’t shake out as they should because it feels good, it’s easy, and everyone else does it. And, if you want to live a truly crappy life, this is the best place to start.
I should know.
I’ve been married for almost 15 years now. My wife, like every human on the planet, has habits, personality quirks, and character flaws that make my life difficult. It feels unfair to me that I should be forced to live with them.
For our first 10 years together I decided that it would be best for her to change. What I soon learned is that the worst things about her are not easily changed. Many of them are well-rooted, and, like everyone else’s junk, the result of something painful she experienced long before we met.
Imagine my shock when I also learned that I bring some not-so-savory things to the marriage table. Unorganized, irresponsible, angry, overly sensitive, smelly, snorey (full list provided upon request). It’s just as downright unfair to her, and she’s spent just as much time as I have trying to change me with similar affect.
So we’ve both spent a fair bit of our marriage playing the victim, believing something akin to “I can never be happy here” and being completely miserable.
I know people that hop from job to job with the same spirit – “So and so is hard to deal with,” “I need to leave,” “I can’t be happy until I have the right job.”
I have a friend who frequently says that the wrong job is one of the best things you can experience. Learning to be un-miserable in a bad work situation is key to learning how to live an un-miserable life.
We play the victim in our relationships, with our kids, even our hobbies. Every time a bad situation pops up, it’s tempting to view ourselves as the hapless pawn, completely unable to find happiness until things change. The reality is that there will always be something crappy in our lap – something that will be hard to deal with – completely out of our control.
I came to an understanding recently in our marriage that I brought some very difficult things into our relationship that were there before I met my wife, that these things were within my control to change, and that I have a better chance of changing myself than changing anyone else.
I’ve also discovered that compassion, forgiveness, patience and growing in my ability to love Elaine without condition are very powerful tools, all of which I can wield at my whim. They’re heavy, but not impossible.
The more I do this, the more my eyes are opened to her true beauty, as well as the power and majesty that is my own life. I’m not as distracted by crappyness as I used to be, and far less miserable.
Our best life is waiting for us, just inches beyond our greatest challenges.
Playing the victim, on the other hand, leaves us miserable because a) things usually don’t change and b) we’re so busy trying to change things we can’t change that we miss out on the good stuff flying around within arm’s reach.
A good life requires strength, the kind of strength that can only be gained by facing the hard things of life head-on, doing our best to get through (getting a mentor if we don’t know what that looks like), and not giving up until the storm has subsided.
Got a bad relationship? A bad job? A bad marriage? The best way to live un-crappily is to stick it out – work out your “deal with it” muscles, stretch yourself and be less affected the next time something bad comes up.
What we’ll find in the end is that these bad situations aren’t what make our lives miserable, it’s the miserable way we deal with them, and our failure to find the good life that lies just ahead.