March 3, 2016

I Am Not A Victim

In my TEDx talk this past weekend, I mentioned that while I was a victim at one time, I am no longer.

After I spoke, I was asked by the event’s emcee (and my new friend), Rickey Bevington, about this comment. To be honest, it’s a slight blur now, so I can’t recall exactly what she asked me in follow-up – but it was something to the effect of, “You said that you do not consider yourself as a victim. What do you suggest others call themselves?”

Again, I could be butchering this. But, it was something along these lines. It was a worthwhile question, and one I thought worth mentioning here on our blog.

I often state this fact, that I was a victim at one time, but that I am no longer. When I was six, I was a victim of sexual abuse. That is a crime, and I was, indeed, a victim. And, to be honest, I was a victim of this crime for a number of years to come, as a child, living in fear and shame of sharing my story.

I think it’s important to recognize this. What I went through justified the term “victim”, even though I didn’t even necessarily recognize this fact until years later.

That was then though. I went to counseling a few years back, as you may know, and this is when everything changed. I realized my value and worth – that it’s totally innate and that no experience past or present (or future, for that matter) can take away from my worth.

It was also at this time that I was able to forgive. Actually, no, I chose to forgive. I haven’t blogged about forgiveness yet, but I intend to soon – it’s a very important part of the healing process. So, watch for that.

But, back to my main point. When Rickey asked me this question after my talk last Saturday, I responded that the answer is such a personal thing, and not one that I can decide for anyone but myself. I think the focus should not be on a title, but instead, on forward movement, on life-giving truth, and on living the lives we were meant to live. I stated that the experience I had at age six has no power over the future of my life. It no longer carries weight.

I’m no longer a victim. There’s a time when being a victim is simply a fact. I was one at one time. But, I also believe there comes a point when one needs to decide. It is an option to allow an experience from the past to dictate our futures. But, I don’t like this option – it’s one that I do not choose.

I choose to forgive what happened in the past, to own the facts that I possess infinite worth and have just as much right as anyone to live a really awesome, fulfilling, exciting life. Rather than seeing my past experience as a bad thing, I now see it as a blessing – as odd as that might sound – because it allows me to now offer value and hope to a whole lot of people’s lives. My once-crappy experience has become a very valuable asset that has the power to change a lot of lives.

This is not only life-giving for others; it’s life-giving for me.

It’s no different for you. No matter what your story is, it has value and has the power to transform lives.

But it’s a choice. And it’s one that only you can make for your own life.

What you call yourself is your business, and my opinion is irrelevant. I can, however, tell you from personal experience that choosing to no longer see myself as a victim, but instead focus on my value and my awesome life ahead, unencumbered by my past experience… is quite a freeing and life-giving thing. My life isn’t perfect, but it rocks and I often feel like it’s too good to be true.

Being a victim isn’t for me; no thanks.  My life is way bigger than that and… a lot more enjoyable. I choose to wake up every day grateful for the oxygen in my lungs, for the people (and animals) in my life who I love (and who love me), for an organization I love leading, and for challenges that make me a better person.

Life is a precious thing, and I choose to live mine with gusto, with intentionality, and with gratitude.

-Matt

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