“The only thing worse than a guilty perpetrator is a self righteous victim.” - Dan Cohen

Another Dan Cohen quote I’ve been sitting with for awhile: “The only thing worse than a guilty perpetrator is a self righteous victim.”

One of the most difficult energies to transmute in a healing process is when self righteousness appears in an individual, family, culture or nation. Many of us are fully aware of forms of self righteous perpetration. One way this looks is when people do something evil thinking it’s the right thing to do because the nation, god or authority says so. But there’s another similarly detrimental form of self righteousness which is self righteous victimhood.

Self righteous victimhood takes the form of wanting to rub the other side’s face in what they’ve done even after the truth has been seen. It can be a way of saying ‘you can never reconcile what you did, and I’ll never stop reminding you of that.’

Reconciliation is a process that begins with truth telling. The act of perpetration must be spoken about and seen. That’s critical - if the truth isn’t spoken and seen and we tell a victim to move on then we’re victim blaming.

Once the act of perpetration is spoken and seen, the perpetrator must give something back or sacrifice something for the victim. Lastly, the victim must accept what is given or share what else they need to be honored and have balance restored. Self righteousness interrupts this process at the point where the perpetrator might give something back or at the point where the victim must accept the balancing act or sacrifice.

Self righteous victimhood is actually a way victims perpetrate in retaliation. It’s like the victim is saying “I’ll never let you feel innocent ever again for what you did!”

Well, whose voice does that sound like? Withholding or taking the innocence of others is what perpetrators do.

In effect, self righteousness blurs the line between victim and perpetrator. If both sides keep sending the message that their primary goal is to dig in and keep pointing fingers - nothing moves forward. In these cases, the individuals and systems they belong to cannot heal. And generations to come feel the burden of this unhealed wounding.

Nick Werber