Years ago, we used to look up to heroes. Kids would say, “When I grow up, I want to be like that!” Heroes were positive role models that had qualities that our society valued. Somewhere along the line, a tectonic shift had a tremendous impact on our nation. We’ve turned and faced the other way and the consequences have been devastating.
Tossing aside our passion to become like our heroes, we now focus on victims. As our televisions become filled with shows like “Hoarders” and “Honey Boo Boo,” we point and mumble, “At least I’m not that bad.” Comfortably, we settle into our couches of content.
If you could look inside someone who chooses to be a victim, you would find two forces at work: power and purpose. Victims believe that power is external to them and that things happen “to” them.
(Image: TLC screen capture)
Psychologist Julian Rotter described this as an External Locus of Control. If they had a bumper sticker it would say “Stuff Happens to me all the time.”
Victims don’t have to accept responsibility because, they tell themselves, nothing they can do would make a difference anyway. When things get tough, victims wait for the government to come to their rescue.
Following Hurricane Katrina, a woman holding her little daughter’s hand screamed at the television reporter, “When is George Bush going to bring me MY food?” From her perspective, President Bush had all the power and she had none.
But there is more to it than power. Those that choose to be victims have a singular purpose in life: to get all that they can. Sadly, she was not yelling, “When is George Bush going to bring my daughter some food.” Victims choose to only consider themselves. They choose to be powerless takers.
Fortunately, some people are convinced that they have the power to make a difference and they believe that it is not all about them. They choose to be empowered givers or what I would call “thrivers”.
(An undated image shows the main gate of the Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz in Poland. Writing over the gate reads: “Arbeit macht frei” (Work Sets You Free). (AP Photo/File) )
“Everything can be taken from a man or a woman but one thing: the last of human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances; to choose one’s own way.”
Frankl went on to make a tremendous impact on his fellow prisoners. He knew that he had the power to make a difference and he was committed to giving himself to others despite circumstances beyond comprehension.
Following Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) in the Philippines, Mayor Alfred Romualdez narrowly survived the storm by climbing into the rafters as the water exploded through the walls below him. Despite tremendous personal loss, he saved the lives of countless people.
A boy in ‘Captain America’ suit waits for a Halloween parade in Baltimore, Maryland, on October 27, 2012. Credit: AFP/Getty Images
Climbing up into a large excavator, he figured out how to work the controls and then rallied other workers to help him clear the road so relief could get in. When the workers became tired and discouraged he refocused their efforts knowing that the lives of so many depended on them. His belief that he could make a difference and his passion to put others first made an unforgettable impact.
The victim’s mindset is that of a powerless taker but thrivers choose the mindset of the powerful giver. We too have a choice. Each of us faces the same two pivotal questions everyday:
1) Will I choose to be powerless or powerful?
2) Will I choose to be a taker or a giver?
How we answer these questions will profoundly impact our work, our friends and our family. Next time you hit a speed bump in your life, be careful where you look. Keep your eye on the heroes.
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