rev_walter_richardson_web.jpgI received a call last week from one of my friends saying it appeared one of my relatives’ home had been burglarized. Two men were seen leaving the house with a television set. Once the homeowners arrived, not only was a television missing but so were a laptop, a camera, DVD player and other valuable items.

My relatives had been victimized and violated and I was angry for several reasons, the least of which being that the family, especially the kids, had been traumatized knowing that intruders had invaded their safe and supposedly secure space.

But in my anger I knelt to spend some time with the Lord in prayer and, in meditation, came across a quote from country singer Stephanie Davis:  “I have truly moved beyond my victimization. I do not think of myself as a victim. I don't think of myself as a survivor. I think of myself as someone who, through forgiveness, has healed her soul and body and moved on to help other people.”

That statement blessed me and I began to overcome my anger.

I began to realize afresh that we are all victims in some way or other. Whether we are now considered perennial victims of natural disasters – the hurricane season just begun – or unemployment, car breakdowns, home breakups, health changes, economic shifts or just plain everyday occurrences, we are all victims in some way but only if we think of ourselves as victims.

 We can choose to see things that feel like and seem to be tragic as opportunities for growth. We can choose to focus on the glass being half full and be grateful for it, or focus on the half that is empty and be victims of it.

Empowerment is seeing reality as it really is, owning the choices we have and making the best of it with the support of the Lord. There is incredible power in the simple words "I choose." Each of us has been conditioned to regard ourselves as a victim. Consider how often you or I have said, or heard someone say, "I have to go to work tomorrow." When we use the language of "I have to" we are making a victim statement.

As long as we look outside of ourselves to find out who we are, to define ourselves and give ourselves self-worth, we are setting ourselves to be victims. We are taught at such an early age to look outside of ourselves, to people, places, property, position and prestige, for fulfillment and happiness. But we cannot fill the hole within ourselves with anything outside of ourselves

The bottom line is you can get all the money, property and prestige in the world and have everyone in the world love you, but if you do not have peace within, if you do not love and truly accept  yourself,  nothing will work to make you happy.

When we look outside for self-definition and self-worth, we are giving power away and setting ourselves up to be victims. All of society is trained to be victims and we are taught to give our power away.

So now we pray, first for peace within, and then for others:

“O God, persistently good, very present, most patient and all powerful, in faith we acknowledge your care over us. In hope we trust in your providence to give us the wisdom and courage to face the challenges and changes in life. And in love we invoke your help during difficult days.

“We pray for all persons who are considered victims. We pray for the victims of hurricanes, tornadoes, wars, earthquakes and other natural disruptions — those who have suffered destruction, despair, decay and even death. We pray for mercy for the victims of cancer, AIDS, high and low blood pressure, heart disease and other forms of dreaded ailments. We pray for mercy for the victims of domestic violence – the wives, the husbands, the children, the boyfriends, the girlfriends, the grandparents, the grandchildren and the companions.

“We pray for the victims of poverty, those who suffer severely from economic changes, the rising costs of living, increasing costs of transportation to work, the continual need for affordable housing.

“We pray for wisdom for pastors, spiritual leaders and government officials, that they may, through these difficult times, show your people the right way through your Word. When you do these things we will be cautious, cognizant and careful enough to give you the credit.  Amen.”

Dr. Walter T. Richardson is pastor-emeritus of Sweet Home Missionary Baptist Church in South Miami-Dade County and chairman of the Miami-Dade Community Relations Board.