A victim of circumstance is an individual who suffers ill consequences because of factors that were out of his control. Someone can be said to be such a victim if, during the course of her everyday life, she encounters a situation without seeking it out that causes her harm. The phrase is often used to describe someone who is an object of pity because others recognize that he shares no blame for his situation and that his current plight was caused by the laws of nature or the actions, intentional or unintentional, of other people.
One significant aspect of being a victim of circumstance is the concept of bad timing, in which an individual suffers harm because of the time period in which she took specific action. For example, people frequently leave their homes and walk to school, work, or the store. There have occasionally been situations in which a pedestrian has left his home only to encounter damaging, even deadly, circumstances. The pedestrian may leave his home just as a lightning storm hits and be struck by lightning, or he may walk into the middle of an altercation on the street and be injured or killed. Another example of bad timing is when an individual makes an otherwise sound business or financial decision only to suffer significant financial losses because of unexpected change in the financial climate.
Many people assign blame for an individual's suffering based on how a person's actions contributed to her situation. As such, people may be more sympathetic and supportive of someone who is perceived as a victim of circumstance than someone who caused his own problems. In some cases, this division may result in a significant difference in how a suffering person is regarded and treated by others.
In some cases, people are concerned about avoiding becoming a victim of circumstance. This can lead individuals to become extremely prudent in their relationships and daily living. Unfortunately, because it is very difficult to avoid encountering bad circumstances, this approach may backfire and unduly restrict the individual who understandably wishes to avoid suffering. For most healthy adults, recognizing the reality of both bad luck and the existence of external factors over which they have no control can help temper the impulse to become overly cautious.