Years ago, I had a rather interesting discussion with a colleague. He was explaining why someone I cared about, who was having a rough time, was not a victim. My reaction to the suggestion that this person was actually choosing to suffer was predictable: incredulity. Who in their right mind would choose the situation she was in? His reply:
It must not be that bad, else she’d do something to change it.
This former colleague is one of my best debating buddies, so I was ready to argue. But I couldn’t. He had a point.
Not long after that, a friend of mine who is a psychologist said something stirring.
It drives me crazy to hear people talk about how hot the burner is, yet they do nothing to get off of it.
Some years later I was listening to another colleague lament how he and his wife wouldn’t be able to retire on the schedule they’d been planning for. After listening to his story, I replied
You mean you’re going to sacrifice your quality of life in your retirement years, and possibly your health, simply because you don’t want your kid to have to work while they are in college? It baffled my mind.
He defended his decision rather emotionally. I remained quiet until he took a breath.
What about scholarships or other forms of financial sources? And is it really the worst thing in the world if your kid has to work while going to college? Lots of people do.
He then told me all the reasons his little baby (who was in their 20s) couldn’t be expected to research and apply for a scholarship or any other type of financial aid. He then went back to lamenting how he and his wife wouldn’t get to retire when they’d planned and he only hoped he wasn’t at risk in our post-merger environment.
As I walked back to my desk I thought about how he had put himself in the position of victim, someone who had no choice but to sacrifice their retirement so that his kid could get a college education. He discarded any suggestions that there were other solutions to the situation, maintaining his position as victim. I knew differently.
I have no idea whether or not the man was laid off or if he is still working. I’ve often thought back to that conversation. Did he ever come to realize he was in charge? That he was making a choice?