Rabbi Sacks on Victim Mentality

JInsider (March 2010)

When something bad happens, there are two responses. Number one, we can complain. Number two, we can do something about it.

Now, if we simply complain, if we see ourselves as victims, the truth is that there’s good news for being a victim. Everyone has compassion for you. Everyone has rachmanus for you. It’s comfortable being a victim. The only trouble with being a victim is that you, by defining yourself as such, have put yourself out of any possible way of improving your situation. Because if it isn’t your fault, you can’t put it right. Somebody else has to. And you thereby hand over your life to somebody else.

The Jewish way is to say, “If I see something wrong in the world, let me be one of the first to put it right.” That is responsibility. And that, literally, is what responsibility means. God is calling to us, as He called to the first human being in the Garden of Eden, “Ayeka?”, “Where are you? Help Me put out the fire.”

And that is the Jewish way. Not to see ourselves as victims, even though we have been victims, but to see ourselves as responsible agents who, working together in conjunction with one another and with that little Voice from heaven, can change the world. That is the only way to be.