The Zero Victim Mentality Offers Hope and Healing.
Q&A with James E. Ward, Author of Zero Victim
To better understand the benefit of anticipating injustice, think of the relationship between a pitcher and catcher in baseball. From the catcher’s perspective, it is not a matter of if, but when, the next pitch will be thrown. He understands that a 100-mph fastball can be life threatening. To lessen the possibility of being seriously injured, he wears the proper equipment to protect himself.
We must think of injustice as a 100-mph fastball coming our way. Similar to a catcher in baseball, a Zero Victim Mentality equips us to protect ourselves from the danger coming our way and to then “catch” it successfully. Once we mentally prepare ourselves to address injustice beforehand, we will be no more surprised by its arrival than a catcher is by a pitched ball.
– James E. Ward
Chances are, most people will encounter unfair circumstances at some point in their lives. Explain the difference between being the victim of injustice and adopting a victim mindset.
"Actually, those chances are 100%! It is critically important to acknowledge the absolute probability of experiencing victimization. I describe the world as a hostile place that isperfectly designed to make victims out of us. Through years of counseling, pastoring, and coaching, I have discovered that because challenges are sure to come, the people who do well in life are the people who learn to manage their challenges well. Failure to mentally prepare for unfair circumstances is really unwise. By preconditioning our minds to strategically and intelligently mitigate the inevitable pitfalls of injustice, while anticipating their arrival, we protect ourselves against adopting a victim mindset. Once an individual adopts a victim mindset, they significantly reduce their chances of successfully navigating their way out of the undesirable circumstances they’re facing."
In your book, you point out that the difference between forming a victim mindset or a zero victim mindset is often shaped by your childhood. Tell us about your own childhood. How did your experiences and your response shape your own “zero victim” mindset?
“One day the thought hit me like a bolt of lightning. I am as smart as any other student in this classroom, boy or girl, black or white! Instantly, my mentality changed forever. At eight years old, I realized that the color of my skin or growing up on the black side of town held no connection with my ability to succeed in school. I understood that my success in life was not about comparing myself to others or competing with them but about doing the very best that I could. I discovered that I ultimately controlled my own destiny.”
You point to Jesus Christ as the greatest example of a zero victim mindset. What are some simple lessons we can learn from His example?
Jesus taught a Zero Victim response to injustice—to not retaliate.
Matt 5:38-42 - "You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away.”
Jesus commands us to respond to our enemies with a Zero Victim Mentality.
Matt 5:43-45 - "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven;”
Jesus forgave, even while experiencing the greatest injustice ever of being crucified as an innocent Man.
Isa. 53:7 – “He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth.”
Luke 23:34 – “Then Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.’”
Jesus commands us to practice the “Golden Rule.”
Matt 7:12 – “Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.”
One of the most sensitive and controversial topics you discuss in Zero Victim is racism in America. How does the victim mentality serve as a catalyst for racism?
"Victim mentality fuels the animosity that exist between races:
By recalling past injustices committed by other racial groups. We must not repeat past injustices, but we also cannot change past injustices. We must intelligently make the necessary adjustments to correct things for the future, without carrying over the mental scars, emotional hurt, and psychological woundedness of the past.
By hindering the release of forgiveness toward other racial groups for past injustices, which does not allow forward progress in the development of trust and genuine relationship building.
By anticipating future acts of injustices by other racial groups and failing to trust their actions and motives.
Victim Lenses Ruin Lives – “For each of us, our mentality represents our personal set of lenses through which we see everything in life. Our experiences and conversations and interpretations of them are tinted by the “color” of our mental lenses. What you see through your lenses becomes “your world.” Despite what circumstances and events really are in the actual world, they will always appear to be something different in “your world,” which creates a different, privatized reality just for you.”
As a society, how is our response to injustice shaped by the media—particularly in this age of social media?
A popular idiom says: “The squeaky wheel gets the grease.” – The louder victim thinkers scream, the more attention they tend to attract. Media makes it possible for victim thinkers to be heard loud and clear by publicizing victimization or even perceived victimization.
Media has exceptional power to influence regardless of the truthfulness and validity of the content shown. If a lie is repeated loudly and often enough, people will tend to believe it.
Social media empowers anyone with the freedom to post their personal thoughts and opinions and highly encourages them to do so. This trend tends to give voice to victim thinking while encouraging others who share those victim thoughts to support them by “liking” or favoriting” their comments. In most cases, social media responses will support the mentality of a victim thinker, instead of providing beneficial solutions to assist them in changing their mentality and perspective about negative circumstances.
What is the simplest step people can take today toward adopting a zero victim mindset?
"Discipline yourself to always act and never react. Think intelligently about the injustice you have experienced and do not respond emotionally."
James Ward is an author, corporate executive, and musician who speaks nationally on cultural and spiritual issues. A visionary skilled in organizational leadership, he is known for his genuine love for people, his impeccable integrity, and his ability to challenge listeners intellectually from God’s Word. He is a pastor, scholar, author, community leader, entrepreneur, and gifted teacher who emphasizes personal character development.
After studying music and business at DePaul University in Chicago and touring as a professional musician, Ward pursued a calling to ministry in 1998, eventually earning a Master’s of Divinity in Practical Theology from Regent University in Virginia Beach, VA. His personal mission is to bring out the best in people by helping them obtain and apply the wisdom of God to avoid the unnecessary hardships of life.
In 2013, Ward founded INSIGHT Church in the North Chicago suburb of Skokie, IL and presently serves as senior pastor. He and his wife Sharon have been married for fifteen years and have two wonderful children, Hannah and Jonathan.