You have a story. (Don’t believe me? Check out this post for my attempt at persuading you that you do.) Today, however, I want to go a step further, and say that you are the protagonist of your story.
Quite the eye-opening, never-heard-before statement, eh? (That was sarcasm, if you didn’t hear it.) I wonder if the biggest impediment to people truly believing this is that while they’ll acknowledge the truth of the statement, they won’t realize that they aren’t living like they know this. I certainly don’t always actively live with this in mind.
Good & Bad Protagonists: What Do They Look Like?
Think about it – how do you expect a protagonist of a story to act like? Better question, and the heart of where I’m going, is how do you want a protagonist of a story to act like? Honestly, I dislike stories where the protagonist is prideful, spoiled, uncaring, or worse yet, evil (I don’t tend to finish those stories, or if I had to, such as in school, it was not a protagonist I was sympathetic towards or cared about).
Consider the perfect protagonist in terms of how they act: Unselfish, uncomplaining, humble, confident, gracious, compassionate, steadfast, faithful, generous, intelligent, wise, full of integrity…the list goes on. We like those characters. Characters that are good and seek after others’ well-being – what’s not to like about them?
Perfect vs. Good Protagonists
There are some people who argue that they can’t relate to a character like this, but I would propose that that has to do with a good character that never makes a mistake (when they should). Mistakes are what we do as humans. What critics are talking about is the lack of ability to connect with a character because the character is being portrayed as perfect when they are supposed to act in human regards. (So a non-example of this is Aslan from “The Chronicles of Narnia” by C. S. Lewis – no one expects Aslan to make a mistake, as that would be out of his character. On the other hand, it’s expected and realistic for many of the other characters to make mistakes.)
Now The Question: What Kind Of A Protagonist Are You?
Let’s get back to the point of my ramblings, which is: You. You are the protagonist of your story. If someone were to read your story, what would they think of the protagonist? Would they grimace at some of the mistakes the protagonist has made, perhaps cringe at the terrible things that have happened to the protagonist, but otherwise like the protagonist, sympathize with them, and root them on? Or would they find someone with some unappealing qualities?
This is a hard question I’ve had to ask myself, and honestly I don’t like the answer sometimes. When I look at the story of my life, my protagonist can be petty, prideful, and sometimes materialistic. She sometimes acts like the world is ending at every little bad thing. One mishap in her plan makes her waver. (And trust me, there’s more.)
However, I’d like to hope that others can see the better qualities in my story as well. It’s kind of weird to speak like this, and I hope you forgive me if this comes across as arrogant, I’m trying hard to be humble and open about this – but sometimes I do things right. We won’t talk about how often or frequently (or infrequently, rather), but I cannot lie and say that everything I do is terrible. I have to have an honest look at my life, and how I’m acting and behaving as the plot goes on. Some things that I do I’m happy about. Then there are other things that I want to change, and I must actively decide to be different. I have to keep working on the protagonist of my story.
Okay, enough of about me, because that was uncomfortable. Now it’s time you ask yourself: What does your story’s protagonist look like? Are you letting situations or people control you, or are you controlling yourself? What kind of person do you want to be? Aim towards all of those good qualities that you value so highly – we will never perfectly reach them, we will make mistakes, but by being closer to those good qualities, we will become better and better ourselves.
Of course, no discussion on our “goodness” is complete without a quick point that we cannot adequately ever be “good enough” in terms of our salvation and our entry into the presence of a perfect God. That is why we need Christ. Keep in mind that even with His perfect gift we still will make mistakes on our journey, but we should keep striving.
Be the protagonist that you would be proud to be. Be the protagonist that you were meant to be.