Vicissitude, Victimhood, and Victory

Life can be like a roller coaster, with its ups and downs. Because of these vicissitudes of fortune, we may feel like a victim one time and like a victor at another time. A reader is now feeling like a victim and wishes to become victorious again. I’ll call her Sophia, which means wisdom. She’s a 42 year old European with a university degree in Classical Studies and has some questions and comments.

“I worked as a teacher, earning enough money to get along. But after the financial crisis hit my country, I found myself without a job or income. A year has past and I’m still without a job. I live with my parents to survive. I see nothing but a bleak future for me and am afraid I may have to depend on others to exist.”

Sophia, as you walk the streets in search of work, you pass many of your countrymen and women who have also been battered by the economic collapse. They bravely wear masks, pretending to be hopeful while they live in anguish. Normally we wouldn’t have access to their inner pain because they skillfully hide their suffering.

But you are now in a unique position because by joining their ranks, you now know their worries, fears, and concerns. It is natural to want to run away from pain, but this time stop and embrace it.

Allow yourself to feel your pain. Then, change your focus and feel their pain. Sense their suffering. Understand their need for encouragement, hope, and relief. And resolve to yourself that you will do whatever is possible to relieve their suffering.

How will you do this? Not by sitting at home, but by getting out and finding a job where you can contribute to society, inspire others, relieve the burden of your parents, and find a meaningful life. But how is this possible in an economy that has no jobs? Well, it is incorrect to say there are no jobs. It may be true that there are no jobs similar to your previous one, but there are jobs. Restaurants need waitresses and hotels need cleaning ladies, for example.

But aren’t their salaries too low? On the contrary, they earn far more than you are currently earning! It is time to reconsider the purpose of going to work. Sure, we have to earn money to survive, but the primary purpose of a job is self-expression and service. The jobs of a university professor and a waitress may appear very different, but they both provide equal opportunities for self-expression,  growth, and service.

No job is beneath you, and each is an opportunity to uplift your customers, coworkers, and employer.

Be a beacon of light, a ray of hope, a fountain of cheerfulness. Whether one is an airplane pilot or airport porter, the job description remains the same: do your best. Why? Hans Christian Andersen explains, “To be of use in the world is the only way to be happy.” Remember, Sophia, although we need money to feed our body, we also need an opportunity to serve to nourish our soul.

“Because of my depressed state, I don’t look after myself. That is, I stopped trying to dress neatly or go out.”

This is another reason to get a job. It will force you to go out, stick to a schedule, live up to responsibilities, and get along with others, all of which will help you to feel better.

“Because I feel depressed and sad most of the time, I don’t take care of myself. I am tempted to wait until things get better. But I’m afraid this may keep me in a rut. What is the relationship between how we dress and how we behave?”

When you don’t dress neatly, you will have little confidence and feel unhappy. It is not important to wear expensive clothing. As long as we dress neatly and are proud of our appearance, we can perform well.

“As for relationships, I adore my mother, but hate my brother and dislike my father. I haven’t had many friends and now have none at all. I stopped seeing them when I realized they were not so honest and I don’t have much in common with them. Of course I like having friends and want to make new ones, but more interesting ones.”

Your once secure world was shattered by the economic collapse you had to live through. So, I understand why you feel disillusioned, disappointed, dissatisfied, dispirited, and despondent. But these feelings offer you no hope for recovery. To make a turnaround, reflect on the wisdom of the ancient philosophers and sages that played an important role in the development of your country. Their DNA is a part of you. Commit yourself to living up to your heritage. Ask yourself how they would behave if they were in your shoes and what kind of courage would they display. Emulate their greatness.

Sophia, can you think of anything more important than relationships? As your circle of friends grew smaller and smaller, did you grow stronger or weaker? When you can’t get along with others, it is like being in a sinking boat and throwing away life vests because you don’t like them.

If you want to get along with others, ask yourself what it is that you don’t like about them. Be as specific as possible. The answers are important because they reveal what you don’t like about yourself. Once you know what you don’t like about yourself, change. Work on yourself until you are happy with the new you. Once you like yourself, you will find that you like others and they like you.

Why do you dislike you brother so much? All of us are doing the best we can with what we have at the moment. Isn’t that true of you? You’re not a nasty person; you have a lot on your mind and are trying to cope as best you can. Don’t you agree? Well, the same is true for your brother, father, and friends. It’s time to change direction. Make it your goal to have a heart as large as the world; yet, too small to hold a single hurtful thought or memory.

Anger, resentment, and contempt will get you nowhere. But compassion, acceptance, and understanding will rescue you from pain, unhappiness, and failure. Treat the world as you wish to be treated, and all your cares will be resolved. Stop looking for things to complain about and start looking for things to rejoice in. Or, as the bible says, “Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” (Philippians, 4:8)

“Although I had some boyfriends in the past, I don’t have a romantic relationship at this time. Perhaps after I get over my problems, I will find a reliable and loving man.”

Sophia, to find the man of your dreams, you’ll have to become the woman of his dreams. And what kind of woman is the man of your dreams looking for? Oh, if you are a good cook, keep a clean house, can manage the family budget, and are attractive, it’s bound to get some attention, but these are not the factors the man of your dreams is looking for. Because he plans to spend the rest of his life with you, what he really is attracted to is someone who is always cheerful, smiling, and has a delightful laugh. Someone who gets along with everyone and is admired for her gentleness, kindness, and generosity. Someone who makes a great friend, has a sense of humor, and is quick to praise and support those around her. Aren’t these the qualities you would like the man of your dreams to have? Become what you wish to have and you will get it.

“My hobbies are reading, sports, painting portraits, and dancing (for which I have professional certification). However, at this time my only concern is with work.”

Of course we have to focus on what is important. Yet, we shouldn’t neglect recreation. Think about the word for a moment; the actual meaning is re-creation; that is, we need to take time to re-create, rejuvenate, and refresh our spirit. All work and no play makes us very dull indeed. Besides, our hobbies allow us to develop and express our creativity, as well as use both hemispheres of our brain for a more complete, balanced life.

Your hobbies can also offer an avenue for you to serve others. For example, you can paint portraits or teach painting at a home for the aged. The more good you do in the world, the more people and opportunities you will be exposed to, and who knows where you will meet your future life partner? I know where you will not meet him: at home. So, get active.

“When I was 29, something terrible and something wonderful happened to me. I had a nervous breakdown. That was terrible. But I was treated by a kind  psychologist. That was wonderful. When I told him my problems made it difficult for me to concentrate on my studies and I was fearful of failing upcoming exams, he said, ‘Don’t worry. You will manage everything.’ This gave me strength, so I pushed myself and passed.”

Sophia, you have experienced the value of encouragement. When you were down, your psychologist lifted your spirits and helped you overcome a crisis. Please remember the impact his words had on you. You are now in a position to pass the torch. You can kindle the hearts of others by uplifting their spirits with encouraging words. When you do so, you will be as important to them as your psychologist was to you.

“Sometimes I daydream about working for myself in another part of my country or even of moving to another country. But I don’t know if it’s worthwhile to engage in such fancy.”

Focus on what you need to do now and the future will take care of itself.

“For over a year I have been reading books and articles on psychology and NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming); yet, I still feel stuck and don’t know how to regain control of my life.”

You’ve been going through a lot, Sophia, so you’re exhausted and confused, which is perfectly understandable. All you need is to be led by the hand and given a roadmap to success. Because of your studies and intelligence, I know you will do very well. Here are simple, concrete steps for you to follow:

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Well, Sophia, the ball is now in your court. You have received a helping hand, but you will soon discover the greatest helping hand of all is at the end of your own arm! Please remember that every unattempted solution fails. But if you follow steps 1~4, you will live the life of your dreams. So, what are you waiting for?