Can Someone Be Both Villain & Heroine?

Last night I finished reading “When We Believed in Mermaids” by Barbara O’Neal. Toward the end there was a passage that kept going through my head while I was waiting for sleep.

When I first read it, it sparked something in me. So I read the passage over and over again to process it.

The Passage:

“The revelation is soft, rolling through my body like a summer breeze. It eases the knots in my belly, unfurls the protective thorns over my heart.

“Maybe I don’t have to choose between Dylan as a villain and Dylan as my beloved hero. Maybe he was both. Maybe Josie was, is, both too. Heroine and villain.

“Maybe we all are.”

Contemplating This Idea:

As I lay there in the dark staring at the dim light filtering through the window curtains, I thought about this for quite some time. I tend to be very concrete and literal in my thinking. Something is usually one way or it is the other. And that’s how I reconcile it.

But a heroine and a villain are at separate ends of the scale. So how do you bring these two concepts closer together?

Recognizing Both:

I thought about people I’ve known in my life who I’ve either feared or felt hate for or tried to banish from my thoughts altogether. Because they caused me hurt or shame or betrayal. Which ultimately severed the relationship.

But if I take the time to think back, I know there were times when they did good things too.

What the book passage says is that they can be both: villain and heroine. Maybe I don’t have to put them inside one word bubble or the other. Can they inhabit both?

We aren’t good or all bad. I’ve done good things in my life, and I’ve done bad things. I’ve hurt those I love, whether I meant to or not. But then, I’ve given them the best of my heart as well.

I guess, then, that that simply makes me human. And maybe we have to accept that things are just not as simple as we might have originally thought.



  1. People can be both heroes and villains, I think. But, over time, we can figure out which role a person really wants to play in our life. There will be a role that they gravitate toward — when there is a problem, do they want to help us, or do they want to blame us? Do they try to work with us, or try to control us? My parents and my first husband said that they cared for me, but their instinct was to try to suppress my interests and wants and to get me to go along with what they thought was best. If I was unhappy with their plans, then, they viewed it as my problem, not theirs, because they were just fine. If I was unhappy, it was my fault. But my second husband is the opposite. His instinct is to want to see a smile on my face, and to know that I am OK. He doesn’t blame me when problems come up, even if I did have something to do with the problem and certainly deserve a bit of blame! I wouldn’t call him my hero, necessarily, because it sounds like a word out of a comic book, but, he certainly is a committed partner, and certainly not a villain. He is just a really good guy.

  2. I realized some time ago this is what makes us uniquely human. Free will and choice. We are all capable of good things and horrific things. To my mind the goal in life is to be self-aware and as kind as you can in your day to day actions. I believe the Dahli Lama says his religion is kindness and we can all be more kind. Live in the moment, understand and really see your actions, and be kind. Sounds so easy, but it is immensely hard to not get swept up in life’s problems and emotions — then just react. We all have various hurts and challenges, some more than others. Mental illness may leave us incapable to some degree. But for those of us that can: realize that we are all capable to inflict great hurt and temper ourselves accordingly.

    It makes me sound saintly which I most indeed am not! I just spend a lot of time pondering this idea. When great pain has been inflicted upon yourself you tend to think about how to not do that to someone else. Hurts can make you bitter or more compassionate. I’ve seen it modeled both ways and I don’t want to end up old and bitter. It seems a horrible way to live, what a trap, but I can easily see how it happens. Life is really hard sometimes, and it will break you. Hence, in your pain and frustration you can be both villain and heroine.

  3. I do believe there is good in most people and all of us have the ability to do bad things, think bad thoughts and close our hearts and minds.
    That is really an awesome bit of writing. It makes me think, too. When I think of others that were once a part of my life -but are no longer- I try to only remember the good things about them and let the pain and/or anger go.
    Good post, Brenda. Hugs- Diana

  4. I think we’re all like that. I can look back and see the wrongdoings I’ve done and said in just about any of my relationships (family, friends). But I’m also capable of great love and loyalty. So we can’t beat ourselves up too much. I think the important thing is that we recognize our wrongdoings in relationships. I have a family member who cannot accept blame for anything she’s done. She always points fingers at everyone else. It’s a real shame.

  5. We need to be careful because of the pain. Our bodies do not know the difference between physical pain and mental pain. Pain is pain. When things hurt too much from a heroine we need to recognize they are a villain. Their live has gone. If our love is still there then we need to self monitor and protect ourselves.

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