Real Life Villains

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Photo credit: JD Hancock via Foter.com / CC BY

You really don’t know what you don’t know until you know it. Wrap your mind around that sentence.

I’ve been on an emotional roller coaster ride. I’m not exaggerating when I say that the past five months have been the most challenging work situation I’ve ever had. I’m not going to go into specifics, nor would anyone really care to hear them. Let’s just keep it simple and say that I found myself in a job that is ill-suited to my skill set and personality. On top of that, I have an antagonist mixed into the situation. I can’t just quit (financial reasons) and finding another job has also been a challenge.

I’ve been trying to take a step back and look at things from a different perspective. Turns out, trying to see things my adversary’s way was helpful, but not nearly as helpful as an outsider’s fresh look on things.

There’s a nice piece of advice for fiction writers that has always helped me with my stories. It is this: Everyone is the hero of their own story. For writers, this means that your villain should not be evil for the sake of being evil. He or she won’t see themselves as the villain, even while committing evil acts. In fact, he or she may feel justified by what they do.

Everyone is the hero of their own story. This phrase can also be used in the real world. Think of your biggest adversary. From your perspective, they are bad people who only wish to make your life more difficult or to stand as an obstacle to your goals and dreams. It’s easy to paint them as awful human beings.

My adversary’s actions often made me an emotional mess. I was angry, frustrated, sad, and hopeless. And then suddenly, I saw the circumstances beyond us both. I saw what this adversary was going through. This wasn’t a walk in the park for either of us. And when I have better focus on the whole of it, I realize that my adversary has it worse.

Now, I’m full of pity instead of anger. It was like a switch went off and my anger was replaced with compassion.

It’s so hard to see beyond ourselves in the heat of emotion. When you’re caught up in the storm, it’s hard to know whether you’re in a hurricane or a tornado. So zoom out. And you might find that your tornado is nothing compared to that giant hurricane along someone else’s shore. This is all easier said than done. I was cemented in place by my own negativity. It took me five months to finally see beyond myself in this storm.

A friend let me in on some information that changed my perspective entirely. It doesn’t fix my immediate problems. But I feel strong. Less weathered. I feel like the lucky one in this.

When emotions spin out of control, it’s easy to burn the bridge without considering the real consequences. So don’t use your adversary as an excuse to act out. Don’t let yourself become the villain. Take a step back. Realize that you can be the hero. But just because you’re the hero doesn’t mean that they are the villain. Even when they might act it out well.

All of us have been the villain at some point or another. Once you realize that, you can move beyond it. You can have better perspective. And perhaps you can be merciful to those who have wronged you. Even if they don’t deserve it.

In the end, it’s a wonderful twist of fate that we don’t get exactly what we deserve. Grace is a mysterious gift. And we could all use more of it in our lives.

Now that I know what I know, I find myself more merciful than vengeful. Life is a crazy ride indeed.

 

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Comparison, Shmarison

I’ve always thought that I don’t compare myself to others, but if I look closer, I realize that I do and I do it often. As a kid, adults told me not to compare my life to other people’s lives. But in the same breath, they told me that someone out there had it worse than me.

“Eat your vegetables, some kids don’t have food to eat.”

“Go to school, some kids don’t get the privilege to do so.”

“It could always be worse, you know.”

I think there’s some merit to that, but it’s overdone and not always used for a good purpose. It’s like telling your kids that it’s okay to compare yourself to others as long as it shows you in a better light (i.e. you’re more fortunate than that poor kid down the street). But it’s not okay if it shows you in a bad light, as in, “Stop comparing yourself to the most popular girl in class, you’re pretty in your own way.” What’s the difference? You’re comparing yourself nonetheless. What makes it right in one circumstance and not in another?

Of course it’s in that “good” context where it makes me feel better about my circumstances. And again, I think when people say it, they have good intentions. Sometimes we do need a reminder that we are very blessed. But we need to come clean. Should we or shouldn’t we compare ourselves to others?

I used to stay in the gray area.  I believed it wasn’t good to compare yourselves to others, but in certain circumstances it could be helpful. Now, I’m not so sure that’s the best way to look at things.

I just read “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” by Stephen Chbosky. It had insightful moments throughout, but this particular paragraph really sparked this post.

“I think that if I ever have kids, and they are upset, I won’t tell them that people are starving in China or anything like that because it wouldn’t change the fact that they were upset. And even if somebody else has it much worse, that doesn’t really change the fact that you have what you have. Good and bad.”

I think it’s good to be aware of these things happening in the world, and also to use them to see your own life more clearly. But they don’t define your life.

Just because there are people starving in the world doesn’t mean you should feel guilty about eating a heaping plate of food. But you should be grateful for having such an abundance. Equally, you may know someone who lives in a mansion, but that doesn’t mean that your house is any less of a home. You have what you have.

More important than comparing ourselves to everyone else, I think we need to be grateful for what he have while always striving to be better. After all, we could all be better, no matter our circumstances. Balance. Life is always first and foremost about keeping everything in balance.

Now if I could just take my own advice…