I remember being ten years old and cheering for my well-intentioned Disney heroes as they overcame trials to defeat their respective purely-evil villains. I remember mourning the death of Qui-Gon Jinn in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace at the hands of the nearly dialogue-less Darth Maul. My childhood friend Peter and I used to fight about who would get to be the “good” guy because no one wanted to be the “bad” guy. Path diverging video games were only half played because I would never go the evil route. Life was black and white and I definitely chose the purest version of white to be.
Then, subtly the narrative began to shift in my life. Life began to happen outside of the protective shell that my family and circumstance had created around me to help me develop in my early years. Rejection, betrayal, loss of friendship, all that teenage angst began to set the theme to my life. I joke with my friend Amanda that the moment when she lost faith in the world and began her journey of cynicism, was when she left her phone on our Chick-fil-A counter, and a guy named Max stole it on camera. By something only describable as divine, we managed to find the guy and get it back, but I still endlessly joke that this event changed her into a darker and more cynical person. Situations like this one are what made me grow up. We go from revering the morally upright, to seeing the corruption in our world and realizing that our own concept of morality is actually much more subjective than we thought as children.
After experiencing rage after being betrayed by someone I considered close to me, I began to understand the rage of fictional villains. The corrupted antagonist who was merely righting the wrongs of those who had escaped justice now made sense to me. I began to empathize with “villains,” both fictitious and real. I love characters like Breaking Bad’s Walter White and Once Upon a Time’s Rumpelstiltskin just because of their depth and character development. They are both despicable and twisted characters, and yet, when observing where they came from and what they’ve experienced, one can’t help but see the reasoning for their actions.
It’s been a challenging season of life. I’ve been blessed to have family and friends to hold me down, but it’s been difficult, to say the least.
I’ve seen myself go from hero to villain. Most of my life has been spent imagining myself as a victim that has been wronged by the world and people. It created this self-righteous image of myself that in hindsight is quite laughable. I never really thought of myself as being an inflicter of pain… until recently.
In those dark moments where I realized the depravity of who I was becoming, there was this voice that told me that I was too far gone. I did a fantastic job of isolating myself and listening only to the narrative that told me that I was alone and unforgivable. It’s a sobering experience when you realize that you have been hurting people personally with your behavior, your words, and your actions.
Check out these two songs from this rapper KB’s album that I feel like pretty much sum up the theme of the “hero gone villain searching for redemption”
In season six of Once Upon a Time, Rumpelstiltskin makes a choice that defies all that he has stood for and defines who he really is. In the season finale of Breaking Bad, Walter White made a decision that contrasts every self-seeking move that he had ever made. As my dad brought up on a walk the other evening, Abraham, the dude from the Bible that lied about his wife being his sister on two different occasions to avoid being killed, had faith that his son would be resurrected even if he killed him as part of a test (Genesis 22, check it out) and is now considered a father of the faith. Paul, my namesake from the New Testament was a Christian killer turned church planter who wrote half of the New Testament.
In fiction and non-fiction alike, there is this resounding theme that we always have the choice to either be heroes or villains. Someone or some inner voice is always telling us that we have passed a point of no return, or that we have simply done too much to ever achieve redemption. Yet, I think I’ve been realizing that each choice we make is not pre-determined by our past decisions. Though each negative decision makes going back harder, it is never impossible and we always have the choice to move towards redemption.
This post is probably indecipherable and laughable to those who have not had their brushes with the dark side, and I’m sorry if this doesn’t make sense. But for those who have empathized to any degree, I hope that this can encourage you by making you aware that you are never too far gone. You can always return home.