By Patrick P. Quinlan
Much has been made during the past few years of the litany of Americans who perceive themselves to be victims of injustice and/or unfairness, whether racially, physically, economically, sexually, politically, ethnically, socially or religiously. What follows are some suggestions to apply to these perceptions.
Be an adult and understand that this life is full of failure, disappointment and rejection that affects us all. And stop assuming that the perceived “winners” in this life don't have any disadvantages. We all have them – some disadvantages are simply more noticeable than others. Continuing to see yourself as a victim or a “less than” merely serves to perpetuate your own self-defined victimhood and only further serves to strengthen your culture of dependence, devaluation and marginalization. Trust me, you are better than that.
But please don't delude yourself. No matter what you've been taught or promised, there simply is no such thing as “fair” or “just” in this life. Throughout history, millions and millions of people have experienced horrific suffering, discrimination, persecution, struggle, lack and unfairness, yet just as many have refused to sit back and let the past define their present, or better yet, their future.
You see, life doesn't owe you a darn thing. In fact, it is you who owe life, and more importantly, you who owe yourself. And although we cannot control what others think, say or do, nor their impacts on our lives, we are each free to contribute to our own destiny and are each responsible for our own decisions, words and actions.
You carve out your place in this world by working harder than you ever dreamed in order to grasp a life you never dreamed of reaching, by giving of yourself to selflessly help others, by learning to truly listen to others' beliefs and values, especially when they conflict with your own, by continuing to develop your faith in God and Christ and by continuing to develop your own potential in order to become the very best version of yourself you can possibly be.
But understand this: Simply improving yourself to this extent still does not necessarily guarantee that you will get what you want, or even what you think you need or deserve. There are more than 6 billion other people on this planet. You are only one person. Oftentimes we simply do not get what we want, or even what we need. Get over it, and move on.
Move on to what? Resolve not to become angry and bitter, a self-described victim, an impotent member of society who blames everyone but yourself for your own shortcomings and poor lot in life. Those are people who refuse to do much, if anything, in the way of helping themselves by either pulling themselves up or by genuinely asking for assistance and guidance. It is not enough to merely show up and occupy a chair at school or work. It takes effort, commitment and discipline.
Our time here is so brief. Spend it as Emerson defined “Success.” Not as an evil, corrupt, selfish and soulless technology, news media and social media culture defines it, but instead so that just one other person has breathed a little bit easier because you have lived.
Escape the selfishness, self-promotion and narcissism that our modern culture has all too successfully marketed and look outside yourself. Shelve the blame you routinely place upon the world and learn to be truly grateful for your own God-given blessings and what you do have in your life and start to focus on others in place of yourself.
In short, refuse to play your perceived victimhood to your own advantage, or worse yet, to others' disadvantage. Stop whining and complaining about your circumstances and about what life didn't give you. Instead, take the alternative path and earn it. Get to work.
Patrick P. Quinlan, who lives in Kenmore, is a retired attorney.