Quit The Martyr Complex

September 18, 2012

The title of this post is a command which everyone should, by the time we’re adults, be able to obey the moment a thought of self-pity erupts.  But unfortunately, we have a world filled with people who, even while they continue to be part of the problem instead of part of the solution, feel immensely sorry for themselves while believing themselves to be innocent –or at least, semi-innocent– victims.

Some of the most miserable of these sorts are those who feel themselves victimized when they are called to account for their deceit, selfishness, perversion, and overall wickedness.  Unable to accept loving admonition, they careen down their path of sin even while they use the phrase, “Can’t you give me the benefit of the doubt?”  Yet when people do then grant them such benefit –so that rebuke is withheld, patience is practiced, and kindness is extended over and over again– the “martyr”, shockingly, does not emerge from his self-pity, but only increases in childish behavior!

What behavior does an undisciplined child exhibit when he doesn’t get his own way?  What does a spoiled five year old do when he is finally reprimanded?  He sulks.  He throws a tantrum.  He screams.  He takes revenge.  And if he can’t be satisfied with those, he finds someone weaker to take out his frustrations on.  In other words, he becomes a bully.

Adults who have never been able to quit the martyr complex they’ve carried since childhood resort to similar antics.  And if the behavior looks bad in a five year old, it really looks bad in those half a century older.  Throwing their weight around, they struggle for power by bullying, and those who must work with them are kept frustrated, while those who must live with them are kept miserable enough to sometimes want to die.  This is no understatement!  Yet, in spite of the misery they so obviously cause, the bully can only view life from his own self-centered perspective, that perspective being that he is a most unfairly-treated victim.

Besides the person who loves to sin and feels he’s a martyr whenever anyone points out to him what he’s doing and the necessity that he repent, there is another type of person who also thinks he’s a sorrowful victim.  This is the person who teaches false doctrine but who has too much pride (and insecurity, for they go together) to accept it when someone addresses his falsehoods.  And the more highly he views himself, the angrier he’ll be to see that it will likely be the most insignificant (in men’s eyes) character (like even a donkey –Num. 22:21-34) who rebukes him.  He will spout and fume and refuse to be corrected.  But the more he refuses, the more under the false delusion he entangles himself, until finally he is completely overtaken by the devil’s lies, and there he abides –a fool, but not even realizing it.

What is to be done with these “martyrs” running about the globe?  Are we to coddle them, speak tenderly to them, grant them their every demand, and give them platforms to speak from?  Or should we resist them, refuse to bow to them as Mordecai refused to bow to Haman (Est. 3:1-5), and continue to use the Sword of the Spirit –the Word of God (Eph. 6:17)– to counteract their false doctrines and rebuke their evil deeds?  Well, what would Jesus do?

Ah, here is where many do not know what Jesus would do?  And why not?  It’s because they don’t know Him.  They don’t know Christ personally, and they don’t know who He is as the Scriptures reveal Him.  They deliberately choose to see only one side of Christ, who is God.  They’ve heard that He is full of mercy, that He is forgiving, and that He is long-suffering, for He is indeed these things.  But they forget that Jesus also took a whip to the money-changers in the temple, that He called the Pharisees names, and that He regarded the unrepentant as children of Satan.  Moreover, people forget that when the Lord comes to earth a second time, He comes to trample His enemies in the winepress of His fury.  (Rev. 19:15)  And why will He do this?  –Because after all His patience, after all His wooing, after all His revelations of Himself and His warnings concerning rebellion against His Holy Law of Love and Righteousness, after all the trouble He took to send them His Word and His messengers… they repeatedly spurned His love and His grace.

Having a martyr complex will keep a person from seeing reality.  It will keep him from being grateful for all that the Lord God has done for him, all the mercies He’s bestowed, all the chances to repent, all the blessings abundant.  Believing himself to be a victim, this “martyr” will keep himself in the mentality of an angry five year old, and no matter how much tender effort is put toward his cure, his path only leads to increased sin, misery, and destruction.  No amount of kindness, tolerance, and love seems to help, for such treatment only empowers him in his self-centeredness.  Instead, what is needed, is stern rebuke, discipline (from an authority or from God Himself), expulsion from fellowship, and continued prayer and intercession.  Only then is there any chance that the “martyr” will come to his senses, see things the way he ought, and call out to God for forgiveness.

with love,

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