That's a good question, because villians are usually very good at hiding themselves. Indeed, people have become very proficient at hiding their flaws and blaming their mistakes on others through a variety of what psychologists call "defense mechanisms." They started in the Garden of Eden when Adam said "this woman you gave me made me do it" and it's been downhill ever since that first shifting of blame. The problem is, there are only a limited number of ways to make this work and while you can mix it up, it all boils down to a few basic things.
First is shifting the blame, as we saw above. People refuse responsibility for their actions and claim "it's not my fault! It's somebody elses fault!" I've heard this is a common reason why, as the joke goes, there are no guilty people in jail. All victims of unfortunate circumstances caused by others - or so their lawyers claim. That's a drastic example, of course, as it doesn't take a criminal that winds out being interviewed on Dateline to use this one. I've heard countless variations from "so and so said they'd take care of it and I trusted them!" to "oh, they're trying to help. I'm sure there's a reason they took my ten thousand dollars and disappeared. They must be looking so hard and too busy to keep in touch!" to "well, I trusted YOU to make the decision and you made a bad one!" Sadly, I have known some people that live their entire lives in a state of refusing responsibility and shifting blame. They don't want to deal with the consequences of their actions and decisions, so they do nothing unless someone else tells them to. It's "oh, I had such a great idea!" if it succeeds and (more likely) "woe is me, I never get a break" if it doesn't or worse, if they get taken advantage of. Which happens often because predators can sniff out emotionally weak people that don't want to take control of their lives and usually prey on that until they suck them dry. It's really a very dangerous defense mechanism.
Another one is projection. This is when you project what you think/feel/do on someone else because you don't want to admit that you or somebody close to you does it. I'm often prey to this one. Probably because if people try to shift the blame to me I'll outright say "it's not my fault if you made an active decision not to think for yourself." (Folks, I have done this.) This is usually a sneaky one because they aren't confrontational about it - they want to be sly because they don't want to tip you off. For example, one time I found out that someone I knew hadn't told me about something big that happened in their life. When I asked why she didn't tell me, she said "oh, I didn't want people to gossip." I replied "do you think I'm a gossip?" She set her face and said "I don't want people talking. Everybody doesn't need to know everything." I knew right away what happened. She hadn't been ready for her "secret" to be told and had only told a couple of people she had been friends with for a long time. The fact that I found out meant one of them had been gossiping, and she didn't want to admit it, so she tried to shift the blame to me. And let me tell you, she didn't speak to me for about two months when I pointed out that one of her confidants were the ones that spilled it to me. She just didn't want to believe a good friend would betray her trust, so she tried to pretend like it was someone else (anyone else!) by accusing the people that found out second hand of being gossips (I found out later that she'd had the same reaction to several other people). The trick may have protected her from feeling betrayed, but it didn't do much to win her more friends or influence people in a positive way.
A third way villians shift blame is dissociation. In a nutshell, this refers to what we commonly call "busybodies" and "troublemakers." These are people that are addicted to drama and work behind the scenes to stir up trouble and then disappear when it all blows up, playing the meek, weak person saying "oh my, all I want is peace!" That is an act, because people given to dissociation are usually dangerous. Remember that Satan is another one that only wants peace - as long as it's his kind, and these people fall in that same category. They will stop at nothing to get what they want and see other people as nothing but tools to torque the world to their will. Their purposes for stirring up trouble are varied - perhaps so they can come in and "save the day" so they can be hailed as a hero, or perhaps to turn people against one another to keep them out to keep lies from being exposed, or maybe because they just have a habit of making bad decisions and they lie and try to turn people against one another to hide their mistakes. Folks, if you haven't crossed paths with one of these then you're destined to someday because it's one we ALL struggle with at one time or another. The reason is because people prone to dissociation are no respecters of persons - remember, people are tools to them - so they will try to prey on anybody.
These types are extremely frustrating because they can wiggle out of situations and disappear from blame with the skill of a mage. There are only two ways to deal with these types: Avoidance, or catching them red handed. You literally have to stay the hell out of their way or catch them in the middle of a trap of their own making. Let me tell you, I have managed to do this once or twice (in 36 years, which tells you how difficult it is) and it's never pretty. When you catch them you win, but it's at a price because these take casualties. Like the devil, they aren't going down alone and they will take everybody they can get a claw in down with then. The problem is that there are some people you can't avoid or cut from your life, so if you have the misfortune of finding a dissociative type in your inner circle then catching them is the only solution. The good news is that deception doesn't last forever and truth does eventually show itself, so they will be exposed eventually and you better be alert and ready to act at just the right moment. The bad news, as I said, is that it's gonna hurt like hell because they'll make sure it does. But it's a price worth paying.
These are just a a few of the defense mechanisms that people use to shift blame, and one that we usually see in villians both in the real world and in fiction. In fact, knowing this can make reading very interesting, because you can look for these mechanisms at work in the books or stories you're reading and use it as a way to discern who the real bad guy is. And it works in real life too, of course.
In my next entry I'll discuss your own dark side. Because folks, we all have one whether we want to admit it or not. And knowing it can be interesting.
That's all for today. Take care and have a good week.
Villians may make the story, but let me ask you - what happens when YOU'RE the villian? It is possible to sabatoge yourself and self help experts and gurus will be the first to say that very often, the only thing we fight more than other people is ourselves.
It's true that we can fall into bad thought and behavior patterns that can sabatoge our own best efforts. In fact, this is a topic I'm pondering for my next book. The idea I'm working on is about a woman that compromises her integrity While she does struggle with other people and there will be a clear antagonist that will aid her in this endeavor, the true enemy is herself. The real battle is in how her thoughts and perceptions influence her actions and attitudes. And, in my classic fashon, it will turn toward mystery with a supernatural creature (I'm considering a djinn), a way-out-there-where-the-hell-did-that-come-from turn of events and, of course, a twist somewhere. Geeze, I hope I'm not becoming my own worst enemy by becoming cliche or (gulp!) predictable after 4 books. Hmm, it might be time to mix it up a bit. We shall see.
I feel this is a good theme to run with because I've seen it over and over, not only in other people but in myself. We all have tendencies that work against us, and the devil loves to use them. Fear is a pretty universal one that we all struggle with. We get scared and that pushes us in all kinds of places we don't intend to go: Stagnation, laziness, complacancy - heck, I call fear "the devil's shovel" because it's a handy tool he uses in us to dig those ruts we find ourselves in.
Our emotions can also get us into trouble. Whether we realize it or not, emotions are learned. YES THEY ARE! When we have an emotional response to something the first time it happens, we tend to continue to have THE EXACT SAME RESPONSE every time it happens after that. They can become conditioned. For example: You have an annoying friend that tends to call you every Tuesday at 3:00. Tuesdays are busy and you tried to explain that but they don't get it, so after the first 2 calls you grow annoyed with them. So how do you feel the third week when the telephone rings at 3:00? You get annoyed, right? Before you even pick it up, you associate a 3:00 call on a Tuesday with that person that annoys you, and just the sound of that phone ringing at that time makes you angry. Maybe you wise up on Week #3 and don't answer but you're still angry when the phone rings. How dare them, you think, without even answering this week - but still, you're mad because they made you mad the last 2 weeks. So we do learn many of our emotional responses.
Another way we sabatoge ourselves is through wrong thoughts. This falls into that same pattern where we learn emotional responses. We do something and one or two people have an unfavorable response to it, so we avoid it in the future because "that doesn't work out." This is something I struggled with a lot when I went through my job transfer. I was at my former place a long time, so when I moved I tended to assume the people at the new place would have the same reactions and attitudes as the people at the old place. For example, the former place where I worked didn't think much of my writing. They didn't like it and even told me that it wasn't company related and to keep it out of the office. So when I moved I assumed my new colleagues would feel the same. I had to fill out a "dual employment" form when I got my book contract for Blurry, so I turned it in as quietly as possible. Imagine my surprise when my boss called me in her office and asked me to tell her more about my writing! She loved that I was doing it. In fact, it turns out that many other people there have "side ventures" and the agency regularly featured these on their internal website - they even featured me when Blurry was released and shared the link to my Amazon.com profile. (In fact, they sent out an email earlier this week asking if anybody had news or accomplishments to report so they could celebrate it at our employee appreciation picnic in a few weeks.) I was absolutely shocked by how enthusiastic and supportative my colleagues were, especially when I spent so many years in a place where I was ordered to keep it quiet. It took a while for me to get used to that, but it also made me realize the other areas where I had wrong thoughts. Even after 2 years I still struggle with that and have to stop and tell myself "remember, they aren't the same people and don't see things the same way. Be fair." Thank Got I realize it and am working through it.
Yes, there are many ways we can be our own worst enemy, and we really have to guard against that. Sometimes we even project our own faults and reactions on others - but this entry is long enough, so let's save that for next time!
I'll close with a challenge - think about it. Are there any ways where you are your own worst enemy? Do you have thoughts or reactions that work against you? Think it over. It's worth it because really, these are easy things to correct. Often just stopping and realizing it is the path to breaking the pattern.
That's all for today. Happy Friday and I hope you have a great weekend.
I recently heard a sermon on BBN about how the Book of Nehemiah shows 4 ways the devil trys to stop people from doing God's will. They are derision, discouragement, destruction and division. I think this is pretty accurate. After all, God doesn't attack us. He usually changes our circumstances and/or prompts a change of mind and heart within us if the intervention is Holy and an effort to put us on a right path. I believe my story from yesterday's entry showed this at work. There were no attacks in that situation; simply changing circumstances which eventually lead me to a change of heart. Certainly I could have continued to pursue an advanced degree in a different program, but the experience shifted my desires to other areas. In fact, I felt strongly prompted to pursue writing after this incident and I had an experience last year that showed all 4 of these steps at work to divert me from what I felt prompted to do.
In April 2010 I had an idea for an apocolyptic sci-fi thriller novel. I had just completed the manuscript for Anywhere But Here, and frankly I was surprised to have an idea for another novel so soon after completing one. I'm usually exhausted and novel ideas come, at best, every 2-3 years. I was excited to already have another potential project, so I immediately dug in and began writing the first chapter of this new piece. Frankly, it was the only excitement I had in the area of writing. I hadn't had anything published in over three years, and a contract that I was offered a year earlier fell through when the publisher filed for bankruptcy (see discouragement and destruction at work). This lack of success had caused enthusiasm to wane over my writing, and people that had been so excited when I published Battleground Earth in 2004 had now dismissed my writing as nothing more than a "nice little hobby" (see derision at work). Through this dry period I did pray about whether it was a sign to stop writing and move on, but the ideas kept coming and I continued to feel compelled and prompted to continue writing, even if the stories never made it any further than my hard drive.
My progress didn't make it past the first chapter, though, because I got tendinitis in my right wrist. It took about 8 weeks to heal. During that time I had to keep my typing to a minimum. I prayed and felt that I should use the time to research and further develop this novel. In fact, I decided to use the entire summer for this task and to enter this novel idea in the 2010 National Novel Writing Month challenge for 2010. That gave me 5 months to research, brainstorm, outline, and prepare to write the rough draft of the novel, and it would finally give me a chance to enter this writing challenge that I'd had my eye on and thought about entering for many years.
I tentatively call the tendinitis a destruction attack on me. I say "tentatively" because I am aware that the tendinitis was caused by typing at work all day and then coming home and typing at night to write Anywhere But Here, so the injury was a result of actions that I knowingly and willingly took.It was just the timing of the injury and the fact that my left wrist wasn't hurt at all that made me suspicious.
I proceeded with my plan and come November 1, 2010 I was ready to start on the novel. I was fully healed and had plenty of notes ready to go. I made great progress for the first few days. I was going through a major life transition at the time from major changes in my personal and professional life, but I felt that I was on a right path. In fact, writing Splinter for NaNo felt like a claim of independence; like a way of saying this is my life and I'm taking it and putting it together my way. It was a personal victory for me.
Unfortunately, the devil had his last punch to pack, and he gave me a wallop right when I didn't need it. It was at that time that other people in my life decided that they had a whole lot of problems with all of these changes, and it was time to do something about it. Tempers exploded and I saw sides of people that I had known for years that had never come out. They weren't angry at me, but since the change was centered around me then I was viewed as the linchpin of it all, and they saw me as the one to "make things right." They were mad at circumstances, mad at situations, and yes, mad at one another. I tried to soothe them, but tempers raged on. I even pointed out, as gently as I could, that they were reacting violently to things that usually didn't bother them, or were minor irritations. Occasionally they would stop, look stunned, say "you're right, that's wierd," then proceed to keep screaming about everything wrong with the world. Most of the time, they said I was crazy and needed to do something about things NOW. (See division at work.)
Once again, I prayed about the situation and this time, I had what can only be called a divine inspiration: Don't worry about anything else; just finish that rough draft as quickly as possible. Ignore everything else until it's done and deal with people once you get this story, which has been percolating in your head for months, out of the brain and onto the hard drive. Until then, reality can wait.
That's exactly what I did. I quit socializing, cleared my calendar, only did the bare essentials, and pounded away at that manuscript in every free minute I could squeeze out of my days. I amazed myself by finishing a 51,000 word first draft of Splinter by November 15.
A funny thing happened when I cautiously re-emerged back to reality. World War 3 hadn't broken out, and nobody had killed anybody else. In fact, all those tempers quieted. Most of them slunk away in silence, but a few did express shock and dismay at their behavior. They couldn't believe they had reacted so violently to things that were nothing more than minor irriations and didn't understand. I knew exactly what it was. Satan lit them with some hell fire to stop me, but when I wasn't there to burn then it was useless so he took it from them. I could have easily stayed angry at them and cast blame and judgement, but I realized it as an attack of division and didn't want to allow it to succeed on any level. It was hard, but I made an active decision to forgive and let it go.
I'd like to say that the devil just went away after that, but the truth is that I faced similar attacks every single time I worked on Splinter. Every rewrite, every edit, every proofread it happened. People saying they couldn't believe I was still at it when I clearly wasn't going to get published again. Illness, computer problems and yes, those tempers did flare back up every single time. But you know what? I prayed for protection, I persevered, and with the Lord's grace and help, I finished the manuscript last month. It's in the submittal process now and I pray that protection and help continue to bring it to publication.
Another thing did happen in the wake of all of this. I was offered e-book contracts for Blurry and Anywhere But Here, finally ending a 4 year publication dry spell. I also got several flash fiction pieces and a couple of short stories posted online, and that success gave me the confidence to self publish two more pieces: Quarantine, a suspense novellette, and Resonance, a horror long story. Thanks be to God that the opportunities offered by e-publishing took me from “a nice little hobby” to being an Independent Author!
The point of this story is to show that you will come up against opposition when you try to do God's will by finding your authentic self, but the rewards of perseverence are great. Prayer is absolutely essential - in fact, it's key. I think you see in my tale that prayer is how I channeled the Lord's power into my life. Through it, He provided me with wisdom, healing and protection. I can tell you for a fact that if He will do it for me, He will do it for everybody. God is no respector of persons. If you love and trust Him, He will provide, protect and comfort you.
I know it's discouraging to find you'll have to fight the devil to be who you were made to be, but the fact is that you're going to fight him no matter what you do. Satan will taunt you whether you do what he wants or not, so you might as well claim Christ's victory and piss off the devil every chance you get. Because face it: With Satan you can't win, but with Christ you can't lose. That is the most universal truth there is.
Thanks for sticking with me through 2 life tales. I hope that my experiences have given you insight for your own life and perhaps inspiration for dealing with situations that you face. Take care and keep fighting the good fight.
Next time: Personality Quirks - What's Sin, What's There For a Reason.
In this fourth entry of the From Sidekicks to Superheroes series, I’d like to talk about the devil. My point is rather fundamental – it’s that the devil does resist us when we try to be all we were meant to be. Simply stated, he lets no good deed go unpunished. The entire reason why sin and evil exist is because Satan hates humanity and wantsus to suffer. Period. He’s not going to let us have an easy life and we will have to fight the devil every day we walk this Earth.
I trust you understand all of that. I did offer more in the way of reflection on this point in Battleground Earth – Living by Faith in a Pagan World and I encourage you to check that out if you’re interested. For the sake of berevity, I am going to focus this entry on making an important distinction that I feel many people fail to make: That Satan is not the source of all the problems we face in our lives. Although he is the source of plenty of misery and suffering, the truth is that the things we come up against are sometimes the result of our own errors or (gasp!) God Himself resisting us. Let me explain:
Simply stated, we all make mistakes. We’re human and it happens. Sometimes, however, we’re so hung up on our own will that we aren’t willing to admit that we made the mistake. When that happens, God usually puts resistance in our way to give us an opportunity to stop for a moment and take stock. But if we refuse to heed these “warning shots,” then we become a victim of our own mistakes. Here’s an example from my own life:
When I graduated college, I intended to go to graduate school. I had all intentions of getting my Master’s Degree, but I was engaged and the desire to get married and start my own home was greater than further academic pursuit. Ok, I thought, I’ll take some time off, get established, and go back to school later. I did get married, we bought our home, and I found a job, which lead to a promotion a year and a half later. At the time my job had a tuition reimbursement program, so once my one year probation was over, I began looking into advanced degree program opportunities. As luck would have it, I did find one program that I was very interested in, and it qualified for the program. But that’s where the luck stopped.
As soon as I started the application process, I got a memo that the tuition reimbursement program was being cancelled due to budget problems. This was a first “sign” that something wasn’t right. I felt some doubt, but I plugged on. I submitted my application and started looking for grants, loans, and other types of financial aid. Once they received my application, another “sign” came: One of the program administrators called me and said the program didn’t have enough applicants for the following semester, so they were deferring all applicants until the following semester.
At this point, I had serious doubts. I had long dreamed of getting my Master’s degree, but the truth was that I was happy in my current job, and I was starting to wonder if it would be wise for me to take on this burden so early in our marriage. I finally, for the first time, prayed about the situation, and sensed that I was to do nothing for the time being. Allow things to unfold and see what happens.
A week later two things happened: I found out that our household income was too high to qualify for financial aid, and I got a letter from the college stating that due to low enrollment, the program had been disbanded.
Talk about a door slamming closed in your face! I heard the locks bolt and the chain slide too! But I got it – the Lord had me on the path I was meant to be on, and a higher education wasn’t part of it. That was an emotionally and heartbreaking incident for me, and I brought it upon myself. If I had taken time to pray and seek His will instead of following my own ambition, I could have saved so much time and trouble for myself.
There are times, however, when the devil does come against us. For example, that graduate program was reinstated several years later –right when Rick and I started the process of selling our old home and building a new one, in fact. We talked about it for all of 2 minutes before the graduate school option was thrown out completely, for once and for all. The timing and circumstances had finally come together for us to build, and when I took a good look at our life together, I realized that we had accomplished all we wanted by that point anyway without the advanced degree. I finally realized the graduate degree was nothing but selfish ambition for me. I traded “I” and “me” for “us”and “we” when I got married, and part of those marriage vows are to consider how what each does contributes to the whole; and an advanced degree contributed nothing to us as a couple. But I do feel like the devil threw that option at me at that point in time to see if we could be diverted from building our“dream home” and the life that the Lord wanted Rick and I to have together.
The point of this entry is that you must be aware of what’s happening in the spiritual realm if you hope to be authentic and have the victory that Christ died for you to have. It can be difficult to discern whether the things we face are satanic opposition, sowing consequences of our actions, or Holy Intervention, and I’m sorry to say there’s not an earthly litmus test for this. Your only test is that of prayer and the intervention of the Holy Spirit. If you lift up all things in prayer, the Spirit will reveal truth and show you the right way.
For the sake of berevity I’m going to close with this. Next time, we’ll talk about the 4 ways the devil attacks us and how to stand up to it.
I’ve heard many interpretations of Jesus’ parable of the wheat and the weeds. This is the one about the farmer
that planted wheat, an enemy planted weeds amongst the wheat, and the farmer told the slaves to let them grow together and at harvest they’d gather both, separate the wheat from the weeds, and burn the weeds. Most center on evil being uprooted and dealt with in the end days, but about a year ago, our pastor gave this parable a new ring. He said another way to look at it would be to consider the annoyances and irritations that the devil puts in your life to divert you from your purpose in God. If you live by faith and try to walk in the will of the Lord, the devil is going to attack you. The attacks are the weeds that trip you up, annoy you, and cause you to stumble.
I think this is interesting. What’s more interesting is that it seems these weeds are variations on the same things, over and over again. For example, we all have annoying people in our lives, but have you noticed that the annoying people around you seem to share the exact same problem? I’m a magnet for jealous, petty people, and always have been. I remember Mom having to sit me down and explain what jealousy was when I
was 7 years old – that’s right, when I was a mere kid in grammar school – because a girl got mad at me because she thought my dress was prettier than hers. And so it has gone, right up until now, and probably will until the day I die. It seems there’s always at least one person trying to get up in my business, then getting mad because they feel I’m “not staying in my place.” One goes away, and two more just like them will come along. I even had an episode where the next petty person was firmly entrenching themselves BEFORE the last
one was gone for good.
It’s not just me. Rick (my husband) is a magnet for selfish, mean people. I have truly seen Satan in some of the people he’s had to deal with. There have even been cases where third parties told me “that person is mentally ill or demonically possessed. I’ve never seen such meanness in a single human being.” Oh, but Rick has, over and over.
I’ve seen it in others too. Mom is a magnet for insecure, needy people. I had a friend that could draw the most
arrogant people you’ve ever seen – oh, how much they thought of themselves! I had another friend that was a glue trap for users and abusers. She got stabbed in the back so many times that I thought she must have a massive knife collection, and that was just in the few years we worked together. Another friend is a jerk magnet. Igits just flock to her.
Now what’s the common denominator here? Simple – it’s that the weeds in each of these lives are the exact opposite of what they are. I’m a live and let live type. I don’t nose in peoples’ business or get jealous because I’m usually too busy with my own life.
Rick is the kindest, most helpful person around.
Mom is extremely independent.
The arrogance magnet is a humble person with a strong faith that all works out in the end.
The one stabbed in the back is one of the most giving people I’ve ever known.
The jerk magnet is a sincere, level headed woman.
You know, it reminds me of what Lex Luthor said to Clark Kent in the series finale of Smallville: “A man is defined by his enemies.” That might sound dramatic, but it’s also true. Look at the thorns you attract and I’ll bet you’ll see in inverse image of yourself.
Yes, those weeds are there and always will be. This is one of the many challenges we face in life on this rock called Earth. Some have said it’s the sandpaper that rubs off our rough edges. If so, then we are also the sandpaper that rubs off their rough edges. So scratch, scratch folks.
Just remember that you aren’t alone. Don’t allow yourself to be distracted by nonsense designed to divert. We
all have those weeds. The secret is to learn what you can and stay on course. If you keep moving, they can’t stifle you. And after all, it’s hard to wrap weed roots around a moving target!