Not long ago I was challenged to consider that in any great story, heroes and villains both have backstories of pain. What separates the two is their attitude toward their pain.
Villains want vengeance. They want to get even for the pain they experience.
Heroes view pain in their lives as an opportunity for redemption. Heroes never self-identify as victims of circumstance. They actively seek to overcome the pain they experience and learn from it.
As I see it, pain comes from three places:
- Our own bad choices
- Someone else’s bad choices
- Life circumstances
My friend Alece wrote a blog post this week about her ongoing battles with chronic illness. Her physical challenges limit her ability to engage with daily life. It reminded me of so many of the people I have met.
A common struggle
I’m on staff with an organization that attracts a diverse crowd; racially, economically, politically, educationally – by any demographic, we’re a mixed bag of personalities. But there is one thing that is common to us all: pain.
Everyone has a struggle that affects their capacity for a healthy life. For some, like Alece, it’s ongoing physical challenges. For others the struggle is emotional or psychological. Some even struggle with spiritual issues that are typically the result of a distorted view of God. Every one of us has something that causes us to limp through life. How we respond to our pain is key here.
Some are more forthright about their pain than others and this is where the separation between “hero” and “villain” begins. It’s also what attracts me to certain people over others.
No excuses, no pity
People who are honest about the pain they experience and are transparent and vulnerable enough to put it out in the open inspire me. They’re my heroes. They aren’t making excuses. They aren’t asking for pity. They’re just letting everyone know, “This is who I am. I have good days and bad days and sometimes my bad days can be really bad.”
The same person that challenged me to consider whether I would be a “hero” or a “villain” in the story of my life also challenged me to be intentional about the relationships in my life. As I’ve considered those who attract me, I see vulnerability and transparency in the way they carry themselves. In fact, it’s become such an important quality for me to seek out that it’s immediately apparent to me when someone is not being honest about their pain and when I sense that I’m immediately put off.
But, when I see someone who takes a risk and puts themselves and their pain on display, I’m quickly drawn to want to know that person. I want to hear their story and how they’re dealing with the pain that affects their lives. Their lives are some of the most heroic I know.
These are the stories I never get tired of hearing.