I wrote a post about supporting characters. I want to talk about another element of supporting characters that has little to do with writing.
Supporting characters are the ones who do just that: support. The story is about the protagonist. The world is concerned about the lead character. The supports don’t even make the epilogue sometimes. So please don’t be a supporting character in your own story.
These characters depend on the protagonist to give meaning to their existence, and that works in books. But it doesn’t work in your life. I blame others for circumstances that I don’t want to take responsibility for, or I find excuses for never pursuing the dreams I have. Whose fault is that? The protagonist in my life? Yes! Because the protagonist is me and if I’m not living like that then no one else is going to step up to the plate for me.
Often times people will go through life without taking responsibility for their circumstances. In some cases that is a valid excuse (poverty, illness, etc.), but it’s not an excuse to sluff of one’s personal responsibility, i.e. what he/she does about it.
There was a woman who was sent to the Nazi concentration camps for hiding Jews during WWII. Corrie ten Boom and her family ran a jewelry and watch repair shop in Amsterdam when the Nazis invaded. Her father and sister died in the camps, but she survived due to a clerical error. The week before all the women in her age bracket were to be gassed, she was released.
Before the ten Booms were arrested, they had the choice of sitting back and letting history take its course, or to actively work against the atrocities that were taking place around them. They took action. They were the secret protagonists until years later when their story was told.
Corrie went around the world speaking about forgiveness and reconciliation. She wrote a memoir called The Hiding Place to reach a broader audience. Her life is a painful, beautiful story of someone who had every reason to give up on her own life and succumb to her hatred. But she didn’t.
She met one of the guards from her prison camp during one of her speaking events. The man approached her and asked for forgiveness. He began by saying she probably didn’t recognize him, but she did. She remembered the way he tortured her and her sister and the other women in the camp, and she writhed with righteous indignation. She hated the man completely and had no inkling of forgiving him.
But she remembered what she had spoken about just minutes before this encounter. She remembered how forgiveness releases people from the bondage of hate, and allows the forgiver to live a fuller life.
So she hugged the man and said, “I forgive you.”
Corrie ten Boom was not a supporting role in her life. Not even in history. She chose to step up and fight for justice, putting herself and her family in danger. She didn’t allow the circumstances to dictate her reaction, and she didn’t allow the Nazis to destroy her spirit. She looked the dragon in the face and said, “Give me your worst.”
Maybe you, like me, have people in your life you need to forgive, even if they don’t deserve it. Maybe you haven’t moved on from a job you hate because it provides security and your boss tells you you have to stay. Maybe you’re living in a climate that grates on your nerves, but you stay because you feel tied down.
Don’t let your circumstances be the protagonist. Step up and claim your place as the hero in your story.
Image Credit: A Haven for Vee