A fascinating trend has been happening in Hollywood for some time. Personally, I both like it and I hate it. It is the rewriting of fairy tales and classics to make the former villain a hero and the hero a villain. The movie Maleficent is a perfect example. The skillful rewrite of the classic Sleeping Beauty makes Maleficient the hero and Aurora’s father, the king, the villain. It is well-done storytelling.
The part of me that hates these kinds of rewrites is small. It is mostly the part that is sentimental and does not want to see something from my childhood rewritten. I am not saying I was a huge Sleeping Beauty fan, but it was a part of my childhood! It can be challenging to experience the rewrite. It can be difficult to see the new perspective or explore another’s point of view and story. Yet, that is what this post is about.
The part of me that loves it is large! There has maybe never been a time where we need to really look at the stories out there and examine them with a greater openness and broader perspective. We need to learn to see more than just one side of the story.
For years, I worked with young children. One of my favorite ways to introduce them to perspective and being able to see more than just one side of a story was a book called “The True Story of the Three Little Pigs” by Jon Scieszka. It is a humorous rendition of the classic story but from the perspective of the misjudged and stereotyped wolf. As I would read it to a child, it never ceased to get both a laugh and a pause.
And that is the purpose and objective of this post: I hope to get us to pause before we judge from only one side. I believe we all have an internal drive to choose a hero! This drive often causes us to also have to choose a villain. This tendency is hurtful to us, to others, and to society.
We see it every day in the media. This is so true when in places like the United States during presidential and other elections. There is a quickness to pick sides, label one a villain and the other a hero. We champion a person without taking the time to really gain perspective. Without pause to consider all sides, we stamp out a villain, misjudge, and do great harm.
This happens in politics to be sure. It also happens in marriages, families, and friendships. It can destroy neighborhoods and communities. The pull to pick a hero and having to pick a villain is hurting us. The tendency to attach the label “villain” is destructive. Judgements based on black and white, rapid-fire, and quick impulse labeling miss the opportunity to truly see the whole story.
When we label one as either villain or hero, we engage in black and white thinking! When we align with one and misalign another, we are engaged in a destructive practice.
And it is not without serious consequences to individuals, families, communities, and societies. We need to download a better pattern.
Here are a few suggestions to help us stop the hero-villain pattern and gain a better perspective:
Resist the Temptation to Label and be Sucked Into Labeling
It is tempting when talking with friends and family to fall into the habit of talking about others. Sometimes we are talking about people we know and other times we are talking about public figures less known to us. It is an easy thing to do–to talk about other people.
We should be careful about how we do this. In the day of tabloid trash, paparazzi propaganda, and media mishmash, we are so easily influenced and affected by what we see, hear, and read. Without any effort, we may be tempted to parrot out things we actually know very little about. We are too prone to read headlines but never get into the substance. In short, we gossip.
In a world where an average Tweet is 33 characters, we would be wise to be careful about what we believe. In a world where a TikTok or Snapchat story is 60 seconds or less, we should be more cautious about what we conclude. In a world where the average broadcasted news story is only 41 seconds in length, we would do well to slow down before drawing conclusions.
These quick blips of media are not without consequence and impact. They are often simply quick labels without the substance! And, let’s be honest, most of us are too busy to read whole stories. We are long past the days of people who sit and read the whole newspaper. Heck, most of you reading this do not even know what a newspaper is! We are simply too prone to listen to small sound bytes. They label something or someone and we take it in!
Please be cautious of these things. We talk about things we do not know fully or completely. This is even more deadly in quick moments of seemingly harmless gossip. It is too easy to chat with a neighbor at the dog park, have a dinner conversation, or ramble with a coworker at the Keurig. In these moments, we are too prone to go off on labeling someone else.
Let’s resist the temptation to label others. Let’s pause before we speak! Let’s pause even longer before we discuss other people. Let’s be very careful about how we label other people, even those we think we know. The only time labeling is acceptable is on food boxes and soup cans!
Look Deeper into the Stories You Read and Hear
In this fast-paced, rat-race world, it can be so easy to take our news and information “on the fly.” We are all hurrying from one place to another, catching our information in small bits, often while in the middle of something else. We are accustomed to hearing a bit and moving on! Our attention spans seem to be getting shorter as we quickly move from one piece of data to another.
A part of me loves the quickness by which I can learn something! Google is amazing in so many ways! However, in a world where we can learn just about anything in seconds, there is a downside. We are accustomed to trusting Siri or Alexa or Google and their immediate response. This is cool! It is also dangerous!
The real challenge is that we have stopped looking to the source of the information. When I was in school, we had to cite all our sources, make sure they were reputable, and do our own fact-checking before we used a quote or cited a reference. We had to verify, cross-check, and make sure. I remember the frustration of this process. I also remember the confidence I felt when it was completed. I felt sure of my facts and was ready to turn it in!
We have lost so much of this process in our lives! We want quick information, but we do not want to check the source, fact-check the information, or verify the entirety of the situation. This is dangerous. We are to used to just trusting what we get! In a world where the average Google search is less than a minute, we may be too quick to trust. This does not even get to search result placement. We are too prone to trust the first thing we see, the first answer, the first hit!
When Google has literally billions of answers and we get hundreds and thousands of hits to our every query, we must remember all the answers cannot be good and true. Surely we should not trust just the first thing that shows up. I fear in this day of search-engine-optimization, data-harvesting, and high-budget advertising, we are falling victim too often to bad data, only one side of the story, and distorted facts. It is a serious problem to put so much trust in these sources.
So, look deeper. Check the source of the information. Check the “lean” of the source. Ask yourself questions like, “What is their agenda?” Fact check their information. Look a little harder into what you hear. You will also benefit from looking at other sources. See if other reputable sites are publishing the same information or saying the same thing. This is crucial.
With friends, family, and colleagues, it may be a bit harder, but pause and look into it a bit more. Ask questions, pause and consider what you know about the person and their life, and think straight about how you feel when you hear the information. Does it fit with what you know about the person? Does it fit with your experiences with them? Does it match what you already know about them?
Even more, when you are locked in conversation about others, it would do well to consider the motivation and drive of the person sharing. Are they blaming? Are they hurt? Are they trying to get attention? Are they fault-finding? Are they demonstrating accountability and responsibility for their role or part? Rarely is a human interaction a simple thing. We would do well to “consider the source.” Finally, how do you feel when you are hearing and responding to this kind of negativity and dialogue? Trust that source!
It is interesting to me that we could NEVER find someone who was okay with others talking behind their back, talking trash about them, or misaligning them to others. We ALL hate it! Yet, we are too prone to participate and engage with others when they do it! To be sure, we all too often get sucked in and do it ourselves. We need to stop this! We need to reenthrone the principle that “She who talks trash to you will talk trash about you!” Let us resolve now to never be the one who bashes, trashes, or degrades another!