Let’s be honest, we all have our guilty pleasures. The floating Pinterest graphics revealing our Friday night relationship status with Netflix are a real thing. You know what I’m talking about. My recent Netflix binge has taken me through the last five seasons of The Vampire Diaries. Yes, The Vampire Diaries. And yes, I’m Team Damon. Sorry all you Stefan lovers.
So here’s the thing: The Vampire Diaries taught me a lot about life and a whole lot about doing life in community. In the midst of fantasy, truth emerged. While I splurged on Double Stuffed Oreos and watched the clash battle of vampires, ware wolves, hybrids, originals, witches, doppelgangers and humans, I learned a lot about working through the shame of one’s past, what friendship looks like, and the reality that there’s always two sides to every story. Slight disclaimer here: yes, there were many thematic elements in this show that I’m not promoting or condoning as okay, and no, I don’t believe that vampires are a real thing; for the purposes of this post, I’m solely focusing on some thematic elements that ring true in every day life.
So, what did The Vampire Diaries teach me?
- The power of community. More than just a petty clique of high school friends, The Vampire Diaries crew knows a thing or two about what it means to do life together. They consistently put the needs and safety of each other before themselves. They band together in tragedy, celebrate in the sweet moments, and take each day’s problems as they come, together.
- You can overcome the shame of your past. Yesterday’s actions don’t define your future. Throughout the show, Damon, Stefan and Elena struggle with decisions made in their past and journey through the temptation to turn off their emotions in order to avoid the consequences of facing their shame head on. What they discover, however, is that when they choose to ignore their past and pretend that it never happened, the past has a way of rearing its ugly head and forcing its way into the present. On the flipside, when they confront their poor decisions, ask for forgiveness and ultimately forgive themselves, the past has no control over them no matter how hard it tries.
- Revenge doesn’t work. Every character in The Vampire Diaries has someone who has inflicted searing pain into their lives. And almost every character at one point in the show attempts to seek revenge. But here’s what we discover over and over again: revenge never satisfies. No matter how much they believe that revenge will help them feel better or finally get over their hurt and pain, the characters realize it didn’t help them feel better—it only inflamed the situation even further.
- There are always two sides to every story. Time and time again, one character angrily loses faith in a fellow character or situation before he or she has all of the details. As the viewer, knowing the big picture view of the events taking place, we want to scream into our TVs, “Stop, Elena! Damon’s not lying to you! Your doppelganger, Katherine, just wants you to think that!” It’s easy to see when we have every angle at our disposure that there are always two sides to every story and every circumstance. In life, we don’t have the luxury of knowing both sides of the story every time. And that’s ok. In those moments it’s so important to step back, take time to think clearly, and offer heaps of grace.
- What we see at face value isn’t always reality. Klaus is my absolute favorite example of this truth. On a surface level, Klaus seems like the ultimate jerk with one goal in mind: protect number one at all costs. But, when you dive deeper into his character, you discover a man who experienced deep hurt and rejection as a boy from his parents. The family outcast, Klaus fights for acceptance and a sense of community—even though not always in the most effective ways. When interacting with people, what we see on the outside doesn’t always mirror who they are as a person. Often what we choose to project is a byproduct of our hurts and fears. When looking into the eyes of the EGRs in my life—you know, those extra grace required people—I want to remind myself that they have a story and they have hurt and sorrow, hopes and fears, dreams and deep, deep pain. And in remembering that, I want to offer all of the grace and love I can.
No matter where you find yourself today, you can have victory over your past. You can experience healing from the scars in your story. You can enjoy rich community. And you don’t have to be a vampire to do it.