A meme - but (gasp!) it's slightly relevant to what I want to talk about today:
The King's Bishop
To others, the King’s Bishop projects confidence. This can be mistaken for arrogance; but its source is easy to find. From an early age most of the King’s Bishops are specialized in their knowledge. When it comes to an area of expertise the King’s Bishop has several. They can know immediately if they can help you and how. They know what they know, but more importantly they know their limits.
This Bishop is highly ideal with their goals. They attempt to pursue high degree of quality in solutions and can be critical of ideas that compromise this quality. Because of their unwillingness to accept ‘good enough’ they can be unrealistic. They are at their best when they have time to think through a problem, at which point they may have a plan to solve the dilemma. The King's Bishop is an individual with a very analytical attitude. They are like the Queen's Rook, in that they prefer the ascetic quality of solitude. They are not as sociable as others, but are quite prepared to lead if they deem the current leadership as weak. They are thankfully pragmatic and logical individuals. They have very low tolerance for emotional rampaging or the spinning of 'truths'.
Take Which Chess Piece are You Test? at HelloQuizzy
See that last bit there? Today we talk about the person that does that; an enabler of the moocher, and someone you want to avoid becoming like - at all costs.
I am, of course, speaking of The Martyr. Answers.com defines a martyr in a couple of different ways; the religious martyr is not our purview here, because despite rumours to the contrary*, no-one in the SCA has been forced to burn for their beliefs, and it is the only the Intarweb flamewar bonfires of death, doom and disaster that warm our paws until they are nice and toasty.
(And sore from all that typing. Whoo! What a workout! I deserve a milkshake.)
So, yeah - "One who makes a great show of suffering in order to arouse sympathy". Sound like someone you know? I've known a few. This is not the person who tries to be polite and is afraid of making a scene when something unexpected happens, it's the person who sets themself up again and again to have their hospitality used (and abused), mostly so they can have the satisfaction of complaining later about how they always give everything, and never get anything in return. I actually had one of these people say to me "I give and I give..."
I don't know what they said next - I got a severe ringing sound in my ears as I tried to prevent an aneurysm from holding in my hysterical laughter.
(I was mostly successful, but I think I may have lost a bit of short-term memory.)
They turn every small issue into a huge drama-fest, exaggerating the "crime", and overstating their own sacrifice and suffering. There is no forgiveness for little missteps, and, most important, they never do anything to change the situation.
Again, this is not the person who is temporarily paralyzed between politeness and frustration as they try to handle mooching and unexpected guests and hospitality at an event; they invariably come up with workable solutions for the next time, they just weren't expecting the issue, and so did not know how to react. This person makes a clear plan for the future (even if that plan simply consists of "I will say NO when asked to do this by that person, dammit!").
No, we're talking about the people that almost enjoy being victimized by strangers and friends - friends who frequently have no idea they're imposing, and would be mortified to find out they were being complained about in such a manner (worse, the martyr often smiles and encourages them, so they have no idea it's not okay). What causes this phenomenon?
I think pathological "martyrdom" in the social sense springs from a discovery of the heady power of victimhood. Most of our members are socially awkward, and are unused to being the center of attention. Then - something bad happens, everyone is super sympathetic (because we are generally really nice people), the person gets a taste of the attention that comes from being a victim of bad things, and the attention and the positive feedback is a little too much to resist. Like heroin, the state of victimhood becomes addictive, especially if nothing really bad happens, and the situation can be milked for sympathy without any real inconvenience to the martyr.
(In contrast, most people who go through real life trauma rarely make as big a deal about it - for personal reasons, because it's too painful, or because they dislike being thought of as a "victim" of something. For many victims of sickness/trauma/abuse, it's actually pretty annoying to be pigeon-holed as nothing more than a "victim". It makes one sound (and often feel) completely powerless, especially when people who have not experienced the same thing become uncomfortable with the issue, and deal with that discomfort by making the victim an object of pity rather than treating them like a normal person.)
But for some people, the attention they get from complaining is what they crave - P.J. O'Rourke points out that serious people complaining about serious subjects can hold audiences hostage because no-one wants to blow off someone's description of their awful trauma from working with children dying in Africa or helping tsunami victims, no matter how boring or whiny they are. Similarly, the SCA martyr holds a similar sway over their audience - no-one feels comfortable dismissing someone telling you all about their terrible experiences.
However, a simple question can ferret out those who are simply the victims of something they didn't expect (the jerk who won't get out of their chair, the stranger who sets up in their pavilion without asking), and the person who secretly likes it when this stuff happens, so they can complain about it later:
"So, what will you do next time this happens?"
The normal poor schmuck who froze because of the unfamiliarity of the situation will say something like "I dunno - ask them nicely to move? Use
The martyr will say "oh, nothing *sigh* I'll be okaaaaaaaay". The reason? If no-one does anything "mean" or "rude" (the quotation marks are there for a reason), then the martyr doesn't have anything to bitch about, and if the martyr doesn't have anything to whinge about, then they're afraid that no-one will pay attention to them. I've known a couple of this type of person who became positively Machiavellian in their attempts to wring sympathy out of the most innocuous situations***.
You can't fix a martyr, but you can refuse to play into their mind-games. They will never do anything to address their problems, pretty much for the exact reasons stated above.
We're all nice people - we really do want to sympathize with people having a bad day, or people who have had a bad experience, but after a while, some people always seem to be having a "bad day", and they use that excuse to garner sympathy and attention, without ever fixing the issues they complain about so endlessly.
Drama is a somewhat unavoidable aspect of being active in the SCA, and it's terribly easy to get sucked into it. The time we really need to be conscious of its negative effects is when the poor unsuspecting types are at risk for becoming martyrs against their will. When everyone is telling you it's rude to ask people not to do something rude, then it's easier to avoid confrontation and complain to friends later - especially when it's your friends abusing your hospitality. It then becomes a habit, and before you know it, you're a bitter doormat who never fixes anything, because there's a certain power and energy in standing on the sidelines of your life and complaining about how everyone takes advantage of you, and you never get thanked, and they never think of you, and you give and you give...
I almost fell into this trap - until someone very smart *cough*Bob*cough* pointed out that I never talked to the people who had upset me, and even better, he refused to talk to them on my behalf. He was right - we do too much of our communication second and third-hand, and as a result, communication is lost, feelings are hurt, and no-one actually fixes anything. Some people are lucky - they're naturals at being assertive while remaining polite. Others of us (like me) had to learn how to be assertive without psyching ourselves up too far and being rude by mistake.
But even those for whom confrontation is a four-letter word can learn how to (nicely) stand up for themselves. The added benefit (aside from the increased availability of chairs) is that you avoid incipient martyrdom, and circumvent the long slow descent into bitterness and Cranky mcCrankypants status.
Good stuff, eh? Who knew that saying "I'd like to sit in my chair, please" could have such far-reaching effects?
You can't make someone stop nailing themselves to their cross (don't help them, either), but you can avoid picking the hammer up for yourself. It takes practice, and don't beat yourself up if you don't get it right at first - learning how to stand up for yourself when you've been taught to be self-abnegating**** isn't easy. But work towards stating your needs directly, and you'll find you get much more positive results than dropping useless hints and complaining to everyone except the person whose actions pissed you off.
*I'm kidding. Mostly.
**Available for three easy payments of $19.95. Cash only.
***One of the martyrs I used to know (details changed slightly to protect the undeserving) always complained of stomach pains and nausea whenever something needed to be done, or when someone annoyed them - basically as a way of excusing their lazy/crappy behaviour. A friend of mine looked them straight in the eye when they were going on about how awful it was to be so ill, and pity me, oh poor me, and said "Hmmm. Maybe it's stomach cancer. You should get that checked". Fixing the problem would have taken away their excuses - the martyr didn't complain around my friend ever again. My friend said it was great. :)
****Look it up.