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Center for Action and Contemplation
The Seven Stories: Part Two
The Seven Stories: Part Two

The Story of Victimization

Monday, February 5, 2024

Buddhist teacher angel Kyodo williams describes how clinging to harmful stories may increase our suffering:

The movies we replay in our heads—held on to from lives past—cause us to recycle stories that no longer serve us, if they ever did.

We run these stories over and over again and like hamsters on a wheel; we go nowhere in our inner life development, and as a result we suffer as adults from the wounds of our childhood.

Slowly these toxic stories crowd out the potential for joy and ease that is the birthright of every human being…. If we simply give ourselves over to this narrative, to the storyline of “Uns and Nots”—unloved, unseen, unappreciated, unwanted, uncared for, not good enough, not smart enough, not attractive enough, not powerful, not rich enough, not the right color or gender or position or class—then we abdicate the one thing that can reposition our relationship to the entire experience of our life: responsibility.

I often say, “It’s not your fault, but it’s your responsibility.” It is quite true that there are many conditions in life that confer a less-than-desirable experience. But it is also true that at the end of your days on this planet, your life will have been lived only by you. How you experience whatever conditions life hands you correlates directly to how much responsibility you choose to take. None of us can control all (if any) of the conditions, but we can choose how we experience the conditions we find ourselves in.

If we do not begin to debunk the deep inner myth that many of us carry that we do not deserve greater joy, love, or ease in our lives because we are _______ (fill in the blank with your choice of Uns or Nots), then we condemn ourselves to the role of victims in our own movies. [1]

Brian McLaren witnesses how the Seventh Story can free us from other unjust stories, including the story of victimization:

The stories that we’ve looked at—the stories of domination, revolution, purification, isolation—these stories create victims. These stories victimize people, and very often people’s lives are devastated, destroyed, or ended by these stories. We might be able to say that in millions of people’s lives, their experience of being a victim of these other stories becomes the biggest reality of their lives. This reality becomes the story of victimization. Part of the Seventh Story framework is that it communicates to people who’ve been victimized by other stories and says, “We’d like to give you permission to not let that story be the defining factor in your life, but rather to help you see and understand yourself in some other way.” Domination creates victims. Revolution creates victims. Purification creates victims. But victims have an alternative in how they define their lives. The Seventh Story can liberate us from our lives being defined by oppression, abuse, exploitation, marginalization, or vilification in some way. [2]


[1] angel Kyodo williams, foreword to Valerie Mason-John, Detox Your Heart: Meditations for Healing Emotional Trauma, rev. ed. (Somerville, MA: Wisdom Publications, 2017), ix, x.

[2] Adapted from Brian McLaren and Gareth Higgins, “Victimization Stories,” Learning How to See, season 5, ep. 6 (Albuquerque, NM: Center for Action and Contemplation, 2023), podcast. Available as MP3 audio and pdf transcript. For further resources, see The Seventh Story and The Porch Community.

Image credit: Joel and Jasmin Førestbird, Untitled (detail), 2018, photograph, public domain. Click here to enlarge image.

Stories are layered like the rings of a tree.

Story from Our Community:  

Often, I find myself struggling to get out of my own head. I know that most of the time I’m living from “My Story” instead of in alignment with God. Just last night, I found myself on a date with a guy, trying to impress him. At one point, I even found myself lying. Thinking about it afterwards, I realize I was creating drama to feel significant. I wanted to give our conversation greater meaning. If I can keep the mindset of Christ and the knowledge of our larger stories, I think I would be a better companion to others and myself. —Warren P.

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