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Be Thankful For Your Villains


I was having brunch yesterday in San Diego with my good friends Abe and Charmaine.

It was one of those brunches that was something like a mastermind group, support group, improv comedy sketch, and family breakfast all rolled in one.

At some point in the conversation Abe brought up the idea of being thankful for our villains.

At first I thought, “Hell no. All the pain they caused me. All the sleepless nights, the stress, the appointments with therapists.”

As we talked the idea through, I started to appreciate my villains.

Would you have quit your corporate job if you didn’t have that horrible boss?

Would you have ever started your life coaching practice that has helped thousands of women to find their voice if you never met your abusive husband?

Would Jesus Christ be Jesus Christ without Judas Iscariot?

The horrible boss, the man who beats his wife, and even Judas Iscariot, the most famous traitor of all time. Where are they now?

Your boss still works in their middle management job that they despise.

Your ex-husband is either in prison, painfully alone, or with someone else who hasn’t found her power yet.

And Judas Iscariot… well, he hung himself.

As I sat there at brunch I looked back into the film strip of my life at the “villains” who caused me pain and distress.

Then I used a tool that I use for my coaching clients to eliminate guilt and shame from when they were younger. Instead of beating yourself up for being a cheater, an alcoholic, sexually promiscuous, a drug user, or a criminal, can you retell your life story while being as loving and compassionate to your former self as possible?

Using that lens, I looked back at my villains with complete love and compassion.

I realized that they were that way simply because they were in a great deal of pain.

And on top of that, they were there for a reason. They were there to help me leave that job, that relationship, that city, or that social group.

And for that, I’m so thankful for my villains.

Who are your villains? Can you be as loving and compassionate to them as possible and see their pain?

And can you finally see the gift that they gave you?


[Photo Credit: bobsfever]

  • Sheri Bennefeld

    Brilliant! We are who we are because of our experiences – ALL of our experiences. Even the shit.

  • Jason Spencer

    In High School, I did something that turned my entire school against me. People who were my friends, avoided associating with me. The real villains though were the ones that spit on me in the hallways as I walked from class to class, and used every word in the four-letter word dictionary to let their opinion of me be known. In a time of my life when all I really wanted was to fit in and belong, I was faced with the villains, my peers, and had to live with those scars for 3 years while I continued to see those same faces day after day. This life experience deeply effected and shaped me. I allowed the villains to define a large part of me.

    it wasn’t until recently, maybe 2-3 years ago that I faced these villains in my mind. You know what the key moment was? I ran into someone from my high school class at a coffee shop, and he asked me to sit down and talk. We started talking, and a few minutes into our conversation, I had to just get the elephant out into the room… “don’t you remember who I was, and what I went through back then in 10th grade?” I asked… “no, what do you mean?” he replied. And there was this moment as he looked back at me in curiosity and confusion not sure what I was referring to. That moment was a moment of release. What I dealt with and held onto for all those years, and allowed to shape and define me… the villains, the people around me at that time, they don’t even remember. It was so small and insignificant in their view and perspective on high school. but I allowed it to become a monster that dug its claws of fear and self-hatred very deep. But, that moment, was freedom. i allowed the tears to flow as an act of cleansing that night, as I thought through what I held onto so strongly, while my villains moved on and lived.

    • Mike Hrostoski

      Beautiful man.

      Letting go feels so mmm mmm good.

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  • David Landau

    Very noble and evolved. I’m grateful for reminders like this, Mike.

    Brings to mind:

    Mother Teresa’s Anyway Poem

    People are often unreasonable, illogical and self centered;
    Forgive them anyway.

    If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives;
    Be kind anyway.

    If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies;
    Succeed anyway.

    If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you;
    Be honest and frank anyway.

    What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight;
    Build anyway.

    If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous;
    Be happy anyway.

    The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow;
    Do good anyway.

    Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough;
    Give the world the best you’ve got anyway.

    You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and your God;
    It was never between you and them anyway.