I am the protagonist of the Universe!

or another version:

I am the protagonist of my universe!

In our Western culture, which I love by and large by the way, this is used mostly in a sarcastic and joking tone. However, I think most of us would recognize that while we use it that way, there are quite a lot of people who truly operate as if at least one of those two statements is actually true. Sometimes they truly view themselves as the singular most important person there is anywhere, and the other people just basically are so insulated that they believe their “reality” trumps the reality we all share. Both are silly, but one is dangerous to others and yourself while the other is dangerous mostly to yourself.

The real truth is, unfortunately:

You are the antagonist of your own life.

This isn’t to say that there aren’t real villains that can truly mess your life up, and that doesn’t mean that there aren’t real powers that can be or are against you. But the reality is that most people do not view themselves as a true and primary source of their own failures and negative events that occur in their lives. Generally, people seem to truly believe they’re good, righteous, and motivated towards the good of others. When you view yourself that way, it’s virtually impossible to see yourself in a negative light or as the primary negative influence on the results of your life.

CS Lewis has a brilliant quote that reveals the heart of what I’m getting at:

“No man knows how bad he is till he has tried very hard to be good. A silly idea is current that good people do not know what temptation means. This is an obvious lie. Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is. After all, you find out the strength of the German army by fighting against it, not by giving in. You find out the strength of a wind by trying to walk against it, not by lying down. A man who gives in to temptation after five minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later. That is why bad people, in one sense, know very little about badness — they have lived a sheltered life by always giving in. We never find out the strength of the evil impulse inside us until we try to fight it: and Christ, because He was the only man who never yielded to temptation, is also the only man who knows to the full what temptation means — the only complete realist.”

This is the reality of humankind. Very few of us spend any real effort trying to legitimately tame our large temptations or egregiously oriented predispositions, let alone to pursue a state of true selflessness, grace, and mercy. Is it hard not to murder someone? Well, per capita…generally speaking, sure. But is it hard to recognize the fact that you, yourself, regularly speak with callous, harsh, and frivolous words to others, demanding that they be received well, but then when others do it to you, your heart is stone? This is true goodness. Devoid of hypocrisy and self-righteousness. What does it feel like to receive a harsh word from someone you do or don’t like, feel the temptation to respond with vitriol, but then to not even experience wrath and vengeance but to drift immediately and most naturally into a state of mercy?

I will use myself as an example.

In my own life, I have been a compulsive and frivolous liar, gratefully, in a “previous life”, so to speak. I have lied for no other reason than because it was available to me. Nothing to gain, my credibility and trustworthiness to lose. I have spoken harshly, if truthfully, with the full intention to humiliate and cast doubt, debilitate and disarm. I have done this in one-offs and relentlessly. I have behaved with instant fire and wrath, and I have slowly stoked the flames of my anger escalating conflict slowly and calculatedly. I am personally guilty of virtually all variations and gradations of lust, greed, pride, wrath, gluttony, envy, and sloth, both internally oriented and those projected upon others.

What’s worse, I am still actively guilty of many of these. Although, praise God distribution of the severity and the distribution of the kinds has dramatically lessened through the Holy Spirit’s transformation of my life, the truth is: I still struggled with many of these even if they are to lesser degrees. I could easily embrace my old habits, old ways of living, and they would overcome me like a tsunami. Plunging me more firmly and more deeply into my most natural dispositions likely never to resurface again.

So now, I live a life surrounded by people I love, some that do and don’t know me from those days, and have to deal with the ramifications of the man that I was. I have created a life for myself where my integrity, word, actions, emotions, career, etc have all been damaged by the man that I was. No one did these things to me, even if some events and people didn’t help, but I cultivated these issues within myself. I chose to embrace these behaviors and to stoke the flames of all these forms of misbehavior and habitual programming. All of these things are infinitely worse than some harsh word someone said to me, some job I lost, some team I didn’t make, some woman that turned me down, or whatever else a person would like to blame on anyone and anything but themselves.

We have one life to steward and we are responsible for what we do with it: to and for ourselves and to and for others.

So I have decided, with all the power that I have and through the grace of the Holy Spirit, to challenge myself as deeply and comprehensively as possible in every facet of my life. Doing my utmost to see where I am the antagonist in my life, and the lives of those around me, so that I can put to death those portions of myself that destroy my own and others lives. I realized many, many years ago at this point the truth of humanity:

We are the antagonists, NOT protagonists, of our own lives.

So I’ll leave you with these handful of pieces to meditate on.

Jeremiah:

“The heart is more deceitful than all else
And is desperately sick;
Who can understand it?”
— New American Standard Bible: 1995, Jeremiah 17:9

And from Jesus:

1 “Do not judge so that you will not be judged.
2 For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.
3 Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?
4 Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye?
5 You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”
— New American Standard Bible: 1995, Matthew 7:1–5

Embrace yourself as the antagonist, and embrace the Holy Spirit, through the grace and mercy of Christ on the cross, as the protagonist. Let Him redeem you.

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