A Villain’s Ever After is officially over. It was a project that I was enmeshed in for nearly a year and a half. Eighteen months of work, collaboration, and discovery. As an extroverted writer (yes, we do exist!) I cannot even begin to say how this project blessed me. It was truly one of the best experiences of my author life and I am sad that this project has reached its completion.
But mostly I’m grateful as I look back on the wonderful camaraderie and the great vision that we shared.
I’m grateful to have been part of a project that focused on mercy.
This project featured twelve ladies who were willing to extend understanding through their pens and take a second look at antagonists that have been dismissed for generations. We put ourselves in their shoes and honestly considered what we would do if we were in their place.
Twelve ladies who were willing to acknowledge the evil and imperfections in ourselves and to remind readers that we all have the potential in our hearts to be a villain – and to extend grace to characters that were overlooked and dismissed.
We live in a world where cancel culture abounds. One slip, one tweet, and your life is destroyed by a savage crowd that would put the mob in Beauty and the Beast to shame. One mistake and you’re out forever.
We live in a time where any hack journalist can dig up a mistake from your past, and then publicly ruin you. Your present actions say nothing, how much you’ve changed doesn’t matter. The public is judge and jury, and the rulings for grace are rare in court.
Even Christians have bought into this. “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.” They’ve hurt you, misused you, or offended you? Then there’s no returning for them. Cut that person out of your life. Don’t extend grace again, they might hurt you a second time.
Redemption stories seem to have fallen by the wayside in a culture that seems determined to make forgiveness a thing of the past. We live in a merciless world, where grace seems all but forgotten. In real life and in fiction everything and anything has become “toxic” and “problematic.” One mistake, one sin, and anyone and everyone can be discarded at any time.
Sometimes I wonder, where have all the Beauty’s gone? What happened to the ones who will love the Beast? The ones who are willing to allow themselves to be hurt to reach out to the hurting? The ones who are willing to sacrifice in order to save? The ones who are willing to forgive the unforgivable and look beyond the surface and believe that the sinner can be redeemed? I sometimes fear that the Beasts of this modern day and age may be condemned forever to their enchantment – because the spirit of Belle is so absent.
I’m not saying we condone, dismiss, or ignore sin. Mercy is not ignoring mistakes, it is offering the grace and gift of forgiveness and reconciliation, because we know we ourselves have transgressed in the same ways.
As a Christian, I do my utmost to follow God’s statutes – commands that tell me to be as forgiving as Christ.
Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.” Matthew 18:21
I fail at this every day, but I believe with all my heart in God’s redeeming power. I believe that people can truly, deeply, fundamentally change for the better. I know that the human heart can endure being hurt again and again, and has the capacity for more mercy and forgiveness then we often believe. I believe in second chances.
I believe in radical redemption that can fundamentally change the most villainous heart and flood the darkest heart with light and make the ugliest life beautiful.
And that’s one of the reasons I’m grateful for A Villain’s Ever After and for the opportunity to write my own story about “unforgivable” sins, and the beauty of reconciliation.
It is my hope that my villain story reminds people to be kind to others, to be honest with themselves, and to remember that the human heart has the capacity to let go of the wounds others inflict on us and offer love in return.
I hope it reminds people to give the unlovable a second chance.
Thank you Camille, Lichelle, Lucy, Lea, Wendee, Tara, Alesha, Nina, Sylvia, Angela, and Jill – for making a space for me in this project and giving me the opportunity to share this reminder.