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WARNING: THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS SPOILERS
Love Can Equal Boundaries
By Sarah Komisky
One of the iconic pieces of the “Spiderman” series is the villains that we cannot forget. Doc Ock, The Lizard, The Sandman, Electro, and the unmistakable Green Goblin hold a unique place in the movie series for their demises, acts of revenge, and conquests. They hold incredible reminders of toxic personality types in our lives.
If you have not seen the newest addition to the series, “No Way Home,” It is time to plug your ears (and in this case – close your eyes) for this spoiler. Not disappointing fans, all the villains of the past are reunited with one some new encounters in a new realm of the multiverse with the most current Peter Parker, Ned his BFF and girlfriend, Mary Jane. The unlikely tribe is first captured for study until Spiderman dismisses Dr. Strange’s guidance to dispel the gang to their original destiny. When Peter Parker finds out, he steps in overriding Strange to attempt to change these antihero’s fates.
Inviting the ragtag group of former scientists and renegades to his home with Aunt May, Peter tinkers and tests to develop something to save these five men that he no longer sees as a threat but as opportunities to “fix.”
Codependency. Ekkk. That’s a hard one to swallow.
Have you ever tried to “fix someone?” And let me get more specific, have you ever tried to fix someone who you were not called to fix?
It’s easy to do. Especially when we believe in people and see the good in them. In our faith, that is not wrong. The wrong thing is when we take on the responsibility to change someone when in reality, only a person can take steps towards change with God’s help.
This film illustrates this vividly.
As seen in the series, these villains were human beings who all had one thing in common: loss. However, their response to loss is what caused them to act out. In turn, we all know people like this. In fact, a common quote has been “hurt people, hurt people.” Yet, as much as we have compassion, forgiveness, and mercy for these personality types, there are boundaries relationally we must set in place.
As seen in the movie, Peter ignores the red flags he sees and is verbally given by Dr. Strange. We in turn can ignore healthy red flags we see in our interactions with others. Some signs of toxic people according to Red Magazine include:
- You’re left feeling emotionally exhausted after an encounter with them
- They try to intimidate you to get their way
- They try controlling you by guilt-tripping
- They are easily jealous
- They constantly see themselves as a victim
- They give backhanded compliments
- They’re overly defensive
Psychology Today adds to the list, unsupportive or caring, they make you defend and prove yourself, take no responsibility for their feelings, and are manipulative to name a few.
Author of the article, “8 Traits the Most Toxic People in Your Life Share,” Abigail Brenner M.D. says, “A toxic person’s “problems” are never truly solved. They simply make up drama to gain someone else’s ongoing sympathy and support.” She also adds, “Toxic people who are also narcissistic aim to gain total control over others.”
Looks at these villains and they freakishly match these traits. Therefore, we can learn from Peter’s interactions with them to take cues from within. Jesus promised the Holy Spirit that he would “lead” us into all truth (John 16:13). He speaks to us and prompts us when things feel not right. Also, he helps to discern what is good and what is not in our best interest. The Holy Spirit leading us into all truth also means that he puts others in our pathway to warn us of red flags they may see as well.
As we see in the film, Peter doesn’t listen to Dr. Strange. His attempt to fix these villains leaves him and those closest to him in jeopardy and we eventually see that these ex-scientists could not be trusted.
While we have heard many times in the church that we should love and while it is a principle in the Bible to be kind, give grace, show mercy, forgive, and love one another. This doesn’t mean crossing a line of safety for ourselves. Being loving is establishing boundaries for them and for you as you need to remove yourself as a savior.
Some examples of common struggle areas include:
- When a toxic person repeatedly offends you but you choose to believe you have to continue the relationship and continually forgive their toxic behavior.
- When you make excuses for a toxic person to cover up or explain their toxic behavior by justifying their past life experiences that shaped their behavior.
- When you let someone in relationally despite red flags because you believe they can change and you can be the catalyst.
- When you downplay or deny their negative behavior believing the best in them.
- When you become defensive when others point out red flags to you.
We see some of this in Peter’s encounters and we can see them in our lives as well. Everyone knows a toxic person. While I am not saying to end every relationship as each relationship requires discernment nor am I saying to not be kind, the first step in health is establishing boundaries. Boundaries set the tone for your interactions. They give a message. You need to be safe and the person needs to know their behavior is something that is not OK or tolerable. Therefore, as with see with Peter who was repeatedly offended by his encounters with the villains who in turn harmed those around him, we too become injured when we allow a toxic person in where a boundary should be placed. “Spiderman” can help us see that without boundaries we are left vulnerable. In turn, let’s have a new view of love as a boundary. It’s God-honoring because we are leaving the person in God’s hands to heal, help, and transform. If reconciliation is possible, let’s let God lead that area and accept if reconciliation is not possible to keep both parties healthy. Overall, let’s lean into spiritual health and wellness by viewing boundaries as not “mean” but healthy avenues to wellness ordained by God.