Does feeling like a victim make you selfish?

In Journal of Personality and Social Psychology – Vol 97, Issue 5:

Three experiments demonstrated that feeling wronged leads to a sense of entitlement and to selfish behavior. In Experiment 1, participants instructed to recall a time when their lives were unfair were more likely to refuse to help the experimenter with a supplementary task than were participants who recalled a time when they were bored. In Experiment 2, the same manipulation increased intentions to engage in a number of selfish behaviors, and this effect was mediated by self-reported entitlement to obtain positive (and avoid negative) outcomes. In Experiment 3, participants who lost at a computer game for an unfair reason (a glitch in the program) requested a more selfish money allocation for a future task than did participants who lost the game for a fair reason, and this effect was again mediated by entitlement.

(via Eric Barker)

I wonder if this is related to the way some folks love a good lost cause. I know converts to Orthodox Christianity who, though not remotely Greek in ethnicity or culture, feel a sense of victimhood and anger over the loss of Constantinople 500 years ago to the Turks. Oddly enough, they’re often the same people who champion monarchism – be it the return of the Romanov Tsars or carrying a torch for the Stuart kings – and who grumble that the South got a raw deal in the War Between the States, that something was tragically lost when Arthur and the noble Celts were overwhelmed by the barbaric Saxons, and again when the free, Orthodox Saxons were conquered by the evil Catholic Normans under William the Bastard. (Disclaimer: I’m not making this up…)

In fact it makes me wonder if there are not a few people who are Orthodox because it’s obscure; you get the sense of being an insider and you can argue online from a place of serene superiority based on your Vast Patristic Heritage. Just guessing.

Meanwhile a victim state of mind is an ugly thing in any case. If I believe the world owes me and mine for what we’ve suffered, that does not equip me to be much of a servant to anybody. We Christians ought to be wary of any sentiment that boils down to “I deserve better.”

Fr Silouan Thompson

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