authentic reflections of a life desired to live well

Viking vs. Victim

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I love Dr. Brene Brown. She’s the Internet sensation who is an authority in vulnerability. Google her for more. One of her most famous talks has over two million views on TED’s Youtube page. My wife is reading her latest book, Daring Greatly. She shared with me a powerful section that resonated enough to post some quick thoughts. Dr. Brown talked about people who mask their vulnerability two different ways: Victims and Vikings. I’m not a fan of pigeon holing people into two camps as a general rule. However, for the sake of this argument, I’m going to utilize her illustration to make a point and ask a question. Here’s Dr. Brown’s setup:

“Either you’re a victim in life – a sucker or a loser who’s always being taken advantage of and can’t hold your own – or a viking – someone who sees the threat of being victimized as a constant, so you stay in control, you dominate, you exert power over things, and you never show vulnerability.”

As I heard that paragraph, I began to think about people I know who fall into both camps. Brown writes, “With this lens, there are only two possible positions people can occupy – power over and powerless. In the interviews I heard many participants sound resigned to victim simply because they didn’t want to become the only alternative in their opinion – vikings. Reducing our life options to such a limited and extreme roles leaves very little hope for transformation and meaningful change.”

I know both kinds of people. I’ve been both kinds before. However, as Dr. Brown asserts, transformation has to be beyond these two extremes. As a leader, I payed special attention when she said, “When we lead, teach, or preach from a gospel of viking or victim, win or lose, we crush faith, innovation, creativity, and adaptability to change.” Make a note of this. Pay attention to this. Wherever we lead, whether an organization, a department, a small group or a family, we need to find balance between the two.  Key is to be vulnerable as people with other people.  If we can’t, we’re either a viking or a victim.  Neither are good.

Stop Being a Jerk

Jesus spends lots of time talking about the upside down Kingdom. Blessed are the weak. Blessed are the poor. His power is shown in our weakness. As a leader, sometimes it’s difficult to balance showing vulnerability and authority. Depending on the day we can come off as either a weakling or a jerk. How can we find the balance so we can have hope for transformation and meaningful change? Especially as 2014 approaches? I have a couple of suggestions:

  1. Authentic Community. It’s paramount that you have at least two people on the planet that really know you – warts and all. And that you’ve given them permission to speak into your life. So, when you’re a jerk, they can tell you to your face. Without community, you’re the Emperor in “The Emperor Has No Clothes”
  2. Mentor. Begin with the end in mind, right? Find someone who is older and wiser than you to bounce ideas off of and listen.
  3. Prayer & Scripture. I’m an evangelical Christian so I believe that the Bible is God’s living Word. Taking time to read it, pray and meditate also connect me to deep truth that can help me with a balanced life.

Vulnerability is key in my marriage, my family, my work, and my life. It’s a careful balance between sharing too much and not sharing at all. But here’s a newsflash: You’re not perfect. You don’t know all of the answers. Neither do I. The sooner we accept this and row together through life, the better and stronger our families, churches, departments and organizations will be.  So, don’t be a wet blanket.  Or a jerk.

Your Thoughts?

Any other ideas on keeping the balance between viking and victim?

About the author


Husband, father, & motorcycle enthusiast. @MSUComArtSci educator. @MSUStratCom admin. @TedLasso student. Aiming for a life well lived.

Follow on @jasonarcher

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By Jason
authentic reflections of a life desired to live well



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