The Story of Complex People: Part I

In childhood days, the world is simplified to us by stories, fairy tales, and the like. We generally have two bins for characters, good people and bad people. Heroes go in the first, and villains belong to the latter.

As we grow and examine these people in our boxes, we realize that they are far less one-dimensional than we thought previously. Sometimes heroes fail and do bad things, and sometimes villains have good intentions. The boxes come closer together, and perhaps, they don’t need to be separate at all. And thus begins a reconfiguration process that will last a lifetime.

In our own lives, we are the protagonist and everyone else a supporting character. As stories usually go, minor characters are assumed to be one-dimensional, and we are susceptible to treating some people as such. But then to our surprise, they deviate from the role they are ‘supposed’ to play, and we get “But you’re supposed to be the nice one?!” or “You’re supposed to be the mean one?!” moments. It turns out that incredible people have weaknesses, and sometimes, our antagonists are not entirely unlikeable either.

The reality is that every single person on the planet has a story in which he/she is the protagonist. We are all the heroes in our own storybook. And the fascinating part is that sometimes, we think of ourselves just as one-dimensional as the other characters. We are always good, and as the heroes, we will win in the end: “I’m the nice person in the story and I deserve good things to happen to me.”

Perhaps our greatest shock happens when we realize at some point that we’re not as pure-hearted and good as heroes ‘normally’ are.

People are not just good or bad. Each person has desires, motives, and ways of thinking that may internally conflict with each other. We are a composite of our selfish and selfless motives, good and bad deeds, successes and failures. There are times when I’m nice, and other times when I’m mean. We are both heroes and villains (or villains in denial), and two forces of good and evil are always at tension within us, no matter how upright a person may seem outwardly.

Perhaps, if we could just let people be people, accepting their strengths and faults combined, we could be more merciful when they make mistakes, offend, or disappoint us somehow. It’s not that we would excuse the behavior, but we would simply show more compassion to each other. Because it just so happens that not one of us is perfect.

Read Part II here. 

Read Part III here.

Photo credit: Svilen Milev