Over four decades ago, my uncle walked out of his marriage and my aunt has never recovered. Even though he has been dead for a number of years, she sees herself as his rejected, cast-off spouse. For some reason she never moved on and today though her mind is foggy with dementia, she still carries the shame, rejection and resentment birthed on that terrible, no-good day. She is frozen in time, a victim still defined by the devastating actions of another.
Advocates who work with individuals impacted by abuse and domestic violence feel that the terms used to refer to their clients are important. They prefer the term "survivor" to "victim" feeling that the former is more empowering than the latter. And terminology is important for the impacted individual in terms of their recovery--a name or label has incredible power over how we view our self in relationship to others and the world.
Researchers have established that past victimization is a risk factor for future victimization, which is a compelling reason to help victims move forward in the healing process--to move from being a victim to becoming a survivor. But is surviving enough or is there something more? I contend there is.
A victim says, "Something bad happened to me through no fault of my own."
A survivor says, Though something bad happened to me through no fault of my own, I did not succumb."
But a thriver says, "I've found many gifts in the wounds as a consequence of something bad that happened to me through no fault of my own."
A person who is a thriver has moved beyond defining herself by the bad thing that happened to her. She says, "I've learned much about myself in relationship to others and to the world because something bad happened to me through no fault of my own. I realize I am stronger than I thought I was; I have a greater awareness of people. I've learned to not give anyone the benefit of the doubt but to withhold judgement until I have enough evidence to believe they are a trustworthy person. I've learned to forgive the person or persons through whom something bad happened to me. More importantly, I've learned to forgive myself. I look forward to life; I embrace the future with eagerness and happiness. I'm no longer a victim paralyzed by the bad that happened to me; nor am I a survivor defined by the bad that happened to me but I am a thriver in spite of and because of the bad that happened to me. I am flourishing; I am growing; I am alive. I have a future, I have a hope."
The victim and the survivor see themselves through the narrow lens of that bad thing that happened; they are still defined by it--it is the major key in the music of their life. The thriver does not deny the bad thing that happened but sees it as one movement of life's symphony--there is so much more music waiting to be expressed.
A victim says "This is my story."
A survivor says "This is not the end of my story."
But a thriver says "I am now writing the rest of my story."
So, something bad happened to me through no fault of my own. I was a victim. I survived that bad thing that happened to me but I am now thriving. Unlike my embittered and resentful aunt, I am writing the rest of my story--making music with the life I have been given. And it is glorious! Can you hear it?