If you’ve watched any new blockbuster movie lately, the odds that it includes some sort of super heroes, villains, and victims of crime are pretty high. Our culture is currently littered with stories that show strong and powerful people in spandex standing up to evil and saving the powerless. The overarching moral of these stories is often, “with great power comes great responsibility.”
As members of the family of God, we too bear that sentiment. God has given great authority and gifts that we must use for the purpose of loving Him, caring for His people, and sharing the love of Christ with the world.
As often happens when humans are involved, our God given authority and gifts are stained with sin and death. Where we are charged to bring life and love into the world, we inevitably bring death and darkness when walking in the flesh and not in the Spirit (Galatians 5:19-23).
Logically speaking, if we are to love one another we must speak well of and to others, have a heart of compassion, and a sense of responsibility for our own actions. This seems easy enough, however, we often find ourselves trapped in a cycle of miscommunications, hurt feelings, and anger. How do we consistently keep entering into these unhealthy patterns of communication? How do we communicate with others who do the same? How do we talk to ourselves with grace and compassion?
Welcome to the world of the Drama Triangle!
It sounds super fun, right? What if I told you that this type of interaction is commonplace for all people? You have lived and breathed this triangle without even knowing it. Triangles have three points (check my geometry, it wasn’t my best subject), and so we have three points on the Drama Triangle: victim, persecutor, and rescuer. Each of these points (or roles) is an entry way onto the Triangle, and once we are on it, we can continue to cycle into each one of these roles while interacting with other people or ourselves. The three points are Victim, Persecutor, and Rescuer.
Victims are characterized by a “poor me” mentality that often leads to helplessness and an inability to change my own circumstances. When we play the victim, we search for someone to rescue us from our victimhood, typically enabling us to remain victims releasing our responsibility for ourselves or actions. When no rescuer is to be found, those who do not rescue us can be seen as persecutors against us, helping us to maintain our victimhood.
Persecutors (Villains) are characterized by an “it’s not my fault” mentality that is used to blame and deflect personal responsibility. As persecutors, we are often aggressive and inflammatory so that we can control our situation and self-protect, in order to prevent or rescue ourselves from becoming victims. When we become victimized by others, we persecute our persecutors.
Rescuers (Heroes) are characterized by a “let me help/fix you” mentality as a means to gain purpose and value from being needed. Many times, our rescuing stems from a feeling of vulnerability and unworthiness, where we believe we can earn back our value through being needed, or valuable, to someone else or even ourselves. Rescuers seek out victims to help, but rather than helping, enable them so that they are dependent. Often, they feel overworked or tired of rescuing which leads to resentment, feeling like a victim, and persecuting others because of it.
As we enter the triangle, we can go round and round forever. We can pull others into it, be pulled by others, or cycle in our mind between the three points.
These roles sound ugly, don’t they? My first instinct is to say, “Well that is definitely not me. I don’t treat people that way. I don’t treat myself that way.” But in saying this I have proven myself wrong. I have just felt victimized by this very article, and have rescued myself from that sense of victimhood by persecuting it.
Thank you Jesus, that we do not have to stay here. “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).
So how do we get off the triangle once we’re on it, or stay away from it entirely?
Step 1: Be honest and evaluate the situation
Step 2: Take personal responsibility for your own actions and thoughts. It is important to not take responsibility for the thoughts and actions of others, and to focus on what you have control over, which is yourself.
Step 3: Set boundaries and consciously withdraw from acting in the drama triangle
Each of these steps requires some serious empowerment and guidance from the Holy Spirit, both in the moment and afterwards. We MUST rely on God to lead us, because our flesh is instinctively set to move towards the drama triangle.
As we become more and more like Jesus through sanctification, these roles on the triangle become redeemed. Victims, who only have problems, become empowered, problem solvers who can take responsibility for themselves. Persecutors, who consistently blame, become assertive, humble challengers who take accountability for their actions and challenge others to do the same. Rescuers, who need to be needed, become coaches and teachers who can lead others to a sense of personal responsibility and sufficiency without having to steal value from them.
Through Jesus, we can live in honesty and personal responsibility, loving others and allowing them to be themselves, as we all reflect Jesus together. We no longer have to be victims, villains, or heroes.