“The villain is the person who knows the most and cares the least.” – Chuck Klosterman, I Wear The Black Hat
In his new book I Wear The Black Hat, Chuck Klosterman writes about villains both real and imaginary. As with everything he writes, Klosterman’s book is an inventive and thought-provoking examination peeling back layers of pop culture to reveal truths that seem obvious until you realize you never realized them before. (There’s a particularly interesting discussion about what would happen if a real life Batman began to fight crime.)
But what sticks out the most is Klosterman’s main theory: A villain is a person who knows the most and cares the least. If you know all the facts about a particular situation, if you know what harm your actions will bring and you simply do not care what happens, then you are a villain in your story.
In a roundabout way, I Wear The Black Hat reminds me of another book about story: Donald Miller’s A Million Miles in a Thousand Years.
Miller writes about how every life is a story and challenges readers to live a better story. The common trait all great stories have in common, as he puts it, is “a character who wants something and overcomes conflict to get it”.
A Million Miles In A Thousand Years changed my life. Ever since I read it 3 years ago I’ve been actively trying to live my life like a great story. But what if it turns out I’m actually the villain in my story?
The final chapter of Klosterman’s book is an examination of his own villainy. Klosterman writes about the only person he’s ever hated in his life, a boy he met at a basketball camp as a teenager who constantly hogged the ball. He hated him for a petty reason. The man turned out to be a sort of heroic character in his later years, and Klosterman had to reexamine why he hated this kid so much:
I know it’s wrong and I do it anyway. I do it consicously. I have the ability to think about this person in a thousand different contexts, yet I prefer keeping my mind unchanged. I can see every alternate reality, but I prefer to arbitrarily create my own. I know the truth, but I just don’t care. (Klosterman)
As Christians we know what God expects of us. We know what He wants out of His children. He wants us to love and to serve and to give and to forgive. We know all these things, but do we care? Are we ever the villain?
There is one enemy Klosterman brushes past in his book – Satan. He is the true villain in the Christian faith. He knows the most about God’s people and cares the least about their well-being. He tries to drag us down through our sinful nature. He makes us believe lies. He makes us believe we are villains.
Paul struggled with his villainous nature. He wrote about it in Romans 7.
For I do not do the good that I want to do, but I practice the evil that I do not want to do. Now if I do what I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but it is the sin that lives in me…For in my inner self I joyfully agree with God’s law. But I see a different law in the parts of my body, waging war against the lawa of my mind and taking me prisoner to the law of sin in the parts of my body. What a wretched man I am! (Romans 7:19-24)
You were never intended to be the villain. If you walk in faith and have been rescued by Christ then you can never be a villain. The sin inside you is the villain.
Don’t fool yourself though. You are not the hero in this battle. You cannot overcome this villain. You will spiral around in a neverending helix of self-hate if you think you can.
Jesus is the hero. He overcomes the great villain of sin. He is the only one who can overcome sin:
Therefore, no condemnation now exists for those in Christ Jesus, because the Spirit’s law of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death. (Romans 8:1-2)
If Christ produces the desire in your heart to change, to flee from sin, to overcome the evil nature, than you cannot be the villain. You do not care the least.
There will be moments when you falter. They will happen on a regular basis. You will seem like the bad guy. You will have to examine who you are.
You must not count yourself out. You are not the villain. You have been set free from your prison chains. You may not be perfect, but you are making progress. Don’t take such a victory lightly.
You do not wear the black hat. You are covered by the all consuming love of Christ. His grace makes you white as snow.