Unforgivable Character Flaws

Character flaws.

We can’t deny them. Nor can we fix them in other people. Sure, we can work on tackling our own character flaws and mitigating their expressions, but we will never eradicate them this side of eternity.

While we shouldn’t cherish our character flaws, we must recognize that we will always be at war with them until we exit this fallen world. We have to acknowledge, resist, and forgive them as they rear their ugly heads in our lives. That also means we must learn to live with—and forgive—the character flaws of others. Uh-oh.

Forgiveness is a lifestyle. It’s not easy, but it’s essential for a number of reasons—the most universally accepted reason being that without forgiveness we cannot move forward.

I think plenty of people (myself included) underestimate how hard true forgiveness can be.

“I can forgive anyone of anything,” we say out loud.

But do we?

Let’s take a look in the mirror of stories.

Most of us can think of a literary or cinematic character whose character flaws we cannot forgive.

We might have loved them up to a point in the story. We might have been rooting for them every step of the way. We may have even loved them for some of their minor flaws or idiosyncrasies, which made them more relatable. But then they commit the act. The one deed that shatters our perception of them and undermines their worth in our eyes.

Maybe they hurt a minor character we liked. Maybe they fail to stand up for their values. Maybe they go back on their word. Whatever it is, they do something that makes them deplorable and makes it difficult to sympathize with them. Until they are penitent, we can no longer honestly view them as the protagonist.

Here’s just a couple of shows where a lead’s character flaws really ruined my ability to root for them.

In Poldark, Ross Poldark’s marital infidelity.

In Downton Abbey, Mary’s serial habit of sabotaging her sister’s happiness (although, to be fair, it’s a two-way street).

I could name more, less well-known examples of characters doing basically the same things as these two, but you get the point.

In evaluating these examples, it seems that my list of unforgivable character flaws can be summed up by unfaithfulness and extreme selfishness.

As I think about the real-life situations I have faced, this checks out. The offenses I have found hardest to forgive are were either expressions of disloyalty or excessive selfishness. Someone betraying another person and then lying to cover up. Someone casting aside their standards for a chance to gain popularity. Someone breaking faith in a marriage. These are all pretty heavy, but unfortunately they are not constrained to the pages of literature or the television screen. These are real wrongs committed by real people that I have struggled most to forgive.

Do we need to forgive characters in fictional stories? No, I suppose not. First of all, they’re fictional. Secondly, we have no relationship with them so there is nothing to restore. But it plays out differently in real life. Many of the people who hurt us or those we love will remain in our lives for a long time to come. And even if they do not, carrying a grudge for the rest of our lives is no way to live.

We’ve all heard the saying, “Resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.”

It’s true.

No, this article is not suggesting that by reading more books or analyzing more films you will suddenly begin forgiving everyone in your life. What I do suggest is that our reactions to certain character flaws in stories reveals the offenses we will struggle the hardest to forgive in real life—whether or not they have happened to us yet. Because knowing our minds is one way to prepare for the future—not because we can control the future, but because we can control our response.

What are some lead characters who lost your support because of their actions?

What flaws do you find hardest to forgive?

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2 Comments on “Unforgivable Character Flaws

  1. Disloyalty and selfishness are definitely flaws that I have a hard time overlooking, too.
    Forgiveness really is for US and not for them, so it’s up to us whether we want to live with the pain and hurt or not.

    I have to say that I learned to forgive much easier than in the past. However, I find it most difficult when I have to continue dealing with that person. There’s always potential for the pain to be inflicted again. And then what? So while I forgive, I find myself not trusting this person and end up protecting myself and distancing from them.

    • Yes, I fully agree. There is a difference between forgiveness and trust. Forgiveness means we let go of the “debt” the other person owes for what they did… but that doesn’t mean we don’t think them capable of doing it again. Trust takes a long time to rebuild, and it requires the other person wanting to restore that relationship. I’m with you on that.

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