I do a lot of work where there are “victims.” Whether it is a statutory crime victim, a spouse who has been abused, or somebody who wasn’t at fault in a car accident, there are a lot of people out there who get hurt by others. So, I’ve had a chance to think about what it means to be a victim.

Before I get to the controversial part of this post, let me just say this: I have the deepest empathy for those who suffer. No matter whether they suffer at the hands of others, an accident, illness or hunger. I’m too old to still want to change the world, but there you have it.

But here’s an insight about victimization that you may think sounds cold: many victims contribute to their own suffering. I know that sounds like heresy in today’s culture, but hear me out. What gets done to you, you cannot change. But how you react to it is entirely up to you. If you are hit by a car as you cross the street, you are going to feel two things: the pain of being hit by a car and the outrage that the driver was so careless. Both are natural. But I’ve met people who are still feeling that outrage long after the hurt goes away. They just can’t let go of the anger.

In my opinion, if you don’t let go, it’s just another way for you to let the person who hurt you keep hurting you. How do you let go? First, acknowledge and respect what was done to you. If it hurts inside, let it hurt for a time. Second, accept that you cannot change the past, and that no amount of anger or anguish will make the person’s behavior make more sense. Third, make a conscious decision to live your life despite what was done to you. Try to be the person you are on the inside, unaffected by what someone else did to you.

I’m not saying this is easy. It may take time and coaching — and don’t rule out therapy if the pain is deep enough. But if you can take steps to let go of the outrage, you will find yourself returning to happiness. And happiness is the kind of that makes the world — and your life — a better place.

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