Forum > Webcomic & Art discussion > The importance of evil villains
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One week ago, 7:00 PM #41
MK_Wizard

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I am trying to, but I don't appreciate the direct attack.

Anyway, yes, I do still think evil villains are important to stories and can still be written with character depth. Like I said, when a person is groomed their whole life into believing that they are above everyone, they are given everything for nothing, are never made aware of how little others have or never face consequences for doing wrong, they become narcissists and/or sociopaths. A villain like this is compelling because it shows how spoiling a person rotten can destroy them.
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One week ago, 7:06 PM #42
DiggityDogDingo

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You got any examples of such a person real or fictional? Come on now you must.
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One week ago, 7:07 PM #43
keltyzoid!
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moral ambiguity can be a pretty good thing for a villain. their methods may be questionable, but when the goal they're working towards is something deeply personal or ultimately well-intentioned, it makes the reader think. you spend the story rooting against the villain, but when they make you sympathize with them because of their motives, it's conflicting. making the reader think about their own ideals is good. making the reader question their own feelings is good.

this doesn't work always, because not every creator can write well.

should all villains be sympathetic? no. can they be? yes. is that bad? also no.

for one project, the antagonist goes through an arc where even they question their own actions, but the desire to protect something dear to them ultimately drives them to do terrible things. you see them as a deeply broken person who just wants their life to return to normal, but they've discovered a new normal that they want just as much. people are empathetic, and having to let go of things and move on is something everyone can relate to. this is a character struggle that anyone can sympathize with, even if the antagonist does things that are objectively wrong.

for another project, the antagonist is in a position of authority. bigotry, paranoia, and thirst for power drives them to oppress their subjects and order violence against an already marginalized group. these things are inexcusable because the end goal is abhorrent. no matter what you do to try and humanize this antagonist, there is no way to sympathize with them.

i feel that way about protagonists. the main character in Interview with the Vampire is a plantation owner who owns slaves. you're supposed to feel sorry for him. if he showed any remorse for it, or was a more likable character, perhaps it would be easier to see past something like that.

many fantasy protagonists frequently commit crimes, steal things and kill people. that's pretty morally ambiguous, but people still root for them. this is because they are given traits that make them endearing. the hero kills guards who are just doing their job, but they're charming and have a compelling backstory and you like them.

in regard to abuse victims, no, you don't have to forgive their actions, but you can still feel bad for them. same with people who suffer from certain mental illnesses and do things that are objectively wrong. this doesn't excuse their actions, but it's still something tragic that shouldn't have to happen to anyone. there's plenty of real-life examples of this. you feel bad for people who were abused physically or sexually as children because it's a horrible thing to go through, but it's not an excuse.

empathy is our defining trait as human beings. when we see pieces of ourselves or people we love in fictional characters, we become attached to them. we forgive people we love when they do things that are wrong. this is what happens when a character is well written.

villains in kids shows aren't supposed to be well written, they're supposed to be scary or funny. looking to children's media for anything deeper than what's on the surface is misguided.

Merged Doublepost:

MK_Wizard: A villain like this is compelling because it shows how spoiling a person rotten can destroy them.


that in itself isn't particularly compelling in my opinion. it's something that happens to many people in real life, and it's a small percentage of people. they aren't taught to be empathetic. there's nothing to become attached to emotionally, because they themselves do not show emotions or traits that we can relate to.
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One week ago, 7:18 PM #44
MK_Wizard

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DiggityDogDingo:You got any examples of such a person real or fictional? Come on now you must.


In terms of fictional, just look at the Joker. His free pass is that just goes to an asylum even though it's clear he's never going to change, get better or use every chance he gets to reign terror even when he is locked up for life. And all because the "he's insane" card is played. At this point, he is too big a danger to society and ought to be put on death row.

In terms of real life, a lot of abusive husbands and fathers got off with easy sentences because of their past traumas. And sometimes, they never get the law called on them either. They play the sympathy card on their own victims to guilt them into giving them another chance. Because we let them off easy, they just go do it again and again because they know they can get away with it. And on a more minor, but diabolical scale, a lot of adulterers are the same way. They play up "I had a bad life" as an excuse, but then continue to commit adultery. And the people who do stuff like that are even offered help to deal with their trauma, but refuse to use the tools to help themselves. To them, continuing to be horrible remains their outlet.

Are they too broken to be fixed? Perhaps. However, even then, you don't trust them anymore especially not at the cost of innocent people. Something has to be done to keep them out of trouble for good.

To stay on topic, I think this side of how to deal with evil villains that should be addressed more in fiction. We try to help them rehabilitate, but when they don't and refuse to change, proper measures need to be taken. There are consequences to trauma, but there are also consequences to broken trust or refusing to take the olive branch. And I think that makes for good storytelling too. Every action has a consequence.
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One week ago, 7:20 PM #45
TheStrangerous

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You know, it can also be a matter of perspective.

Nowadays I see Grinch as a hero, all because he hates CONSOOMERS and the Christmas hype. But sadly by the end, he becomes the CONSOOMER himself.

Sam I Am can also bee seen as an annoying overhyper villain. Constantly overhyping Green Eggs and Ham to poor Guy. Even though the Guy eventually liked them, but the hype was annoying.
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One week ago, 7:22 PM #46
MK_Wizard

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Oh, that is definitely a good point which is why origin stories for villains are so compelling. Backstory is a key element in any character. Evil villains are not the exception. If anything, in some cases, it reinforces how evil they are in how twisted their view of the world can be. I'm not saying all origin stories are like that, but I have seen some like that and while they were freaky, they were still interesting.
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One week ago, 7:27 PM #47
DiggityDogDingo

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MK_Wizard:In terms of fictional, just look at the Joker. His free pass is that just goes to an asylum even though it's clear he's never going to change, get better or use every chance he gets to reign terror even when he is locked up for life. And all because the "he's insane" card is played. At this point, he is too big a danger to society and ought to be put on death row.

In terms of real life, a lot of abusive husbands and fathers got off with easy sentences because of their past traumas. And sometimes, they never get the law called on them either. They play the sympathy card on their own victims to guilt them into giving them another chance. Because we let them off easy, they just go do it again and again because they know they can get away with it. And on a more minor, but diabolical scale, a lot of adulterers are the same way. They play up "I had a bad life" as an excuse, but then continue to commit adultery. And the people who do stuff like that are even offered help to deal with their trauma, but refuse to use the tools to help themselves. To them, continuing to be horrible remains their outlet.

Are they too broken to be fixed? Perhaps. However, even then, you don't trust them anymore especially not at the cost of innocent people. Something has to be done to keep them out of trouble for good.

To stay on topic, I think this side of how to deal with evil villains that should be addressed more in fiction. We try to help them rehabilitate, but when they don't and refuse to change, proper measures need to be taken. There are consequences to trauma, but there are also consequences to broken trust or refusing to take the olive branch. And I think that makes for good storytelling too. Every action has a consequence.



Got it so you've clearly only heard of the joker and never actually read about him. Rehabilitation, killing him outright and every solution in between has been written about extensively in both comic and cartoon. As well as the overarching impact on the characters making that choice. Infact a rehabilitated remorseful joker is its own episode, as well as numerous alternative histories where the joker does not become the joker. (Heck even Martha Wayne was the joker for a turn.) you really couldn't have picked a better example to disprove your own point about pure evil villains.


As for your second point. I asked for real examples. Not straw men, because I can also make blanket statements about a subset of the population without actually proving anything but personal conjecture.
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One week ago, 7:29 PM #48
keltyzoid!
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MK_Wizard:In terms of fictional, just look at the Joker. His free pass is that just goes to an asylum even though it's clear he's never going to change, get better or use every chance he gets to reign terror even when he is locked up for life. And all because the "he's insane" card is played. At this point, he is too big a danger to society and ought to be put on death row.


perhaps in real life, he'd have been executed by now, but it's Batman. it's fiction. the Joker has to be kept alive in universe because it's Batman and he's Batman's most popular nemesis. they've killed him plenty of times, but always bring him back, because it's fiction, because people love the Joker.

MK_Wizard:Oh, that is definitely a good point which is why origin stories for villains are so compelling. Backstory is a key element in any character.


that's why people like the Joker. the most recent movie is the best example of that.
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One week ago, 7:46 PM #49
MK_Wizard

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DiggityDogDingo:Got it so you've clearly only heard of the joker and never actually read about him. Rehabilitation, killing him outright and every solution in between has been written about extensively in both comic and cartoon. As well as the overarching impact on the characters making that choice. Infact a rehabilitated remorseful joker is its own episode, as well as numerous alternative histories where the joker does not become the joker. (Heck even Martha Wayne was the joker for a turn.) you really couldn't have picked a better example to disprove your own point about pure evil villains.


As for your second point. I asked for real examples. Not straw men, because I can also make blanket statements about a subset of the population without actually proving anything but personal conjecture.


Ok. I've had enough of this. If you don't agree with the topic on this thread, fine. I even tried answering your questions as diplomatically as I can. However, you're still harassing me and trying to shame me in front of a crowd and that's not cool. I am not attacking anyone including you, so get off by back. People here make opinions all the time. And sometimes, I don't agree with them either, but I don't take it personally or make them look bad for it. Nobody here is a bad guy just because they have different opinions. I mean, that's to be expected in a community of artists.

All I wanted was to open the discussion about how evil villains are still important to story telling and why. And I would like THAT discussion to continue because I really like some of the points being made here. They're enlightening and intelligent. Can we stick to that please?

PS: I am a huge Batman fan. I have read comics, watched movies and watched the cartoons. When I used the Joker as an example, I meant THE Joker. The one who is evil as can be. I am well aware of alternate Jokers, but I didn't mean them. I meant the iconic evil one.
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One week ago, 7:59 PM #50
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MK_Wizard: All I wanted was to open the discussion about how evil villains are still important to story telling and why. And I would like THAT discussion to continue because I really like some of the points being made here. They're enlightening and intelligent. Can we stick to that please?


MK_Wizard:I guess I am talking about both..


???
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One week ago, 8:04 PM #51
MK_Wizard

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I meant that I am talking about ALL kind of purely evil villains from varying stories, backgrounds and origins, but the one factor they have in common is that they are beyond redemption and are just pure evil.
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One week ago, 8:16 PM #52
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Robotwin.com:https://screencraft.org/2015/08/26/15-types-of-villains-screenwriters-need-to-know/
Interestingly, mankind was the villain in Bambi.


Whoa, mankind WAS the villain in Bambi O_O never thought of it that way before; my tiny mind is blown haha

MK_Wizard:All I wanted was to open the discussion about how evil villains are still important to story telling and why. And I would like THAT discussion to continue because I really like some of the points being made here. They're enlightening and intelligent. Can we stick to that please?


Sure! :-B

Passing thought: I don't think any kind of villain has become less common or important to storytelling. All villains are welcome here; maybe the complex villains with complex backstories (and perhaps a smidge of a chance at redemption) just give us more to talk about.

keltyzoid!:perhaps in real life, he'd have been executed by now, but it's Batman. it's fiction. the Joker has to be kept alive in universe because it's Batman and he's Batman's most popular nemesis. they've killed him plenty of times, but always bring him back, because it's fiction, because people love the Joker.


So yeah I think that's a really good point - it's not about the villain, per se, but how the villain fits into the overarching story. Stories are always about the bigger picture, yeah? So in one case maybe MK's "true evil villain" with no motive other than to be evil for evil's sake is a viable option, but in other stories, a more complex villain might prove most effective.

If exploring morality was your goal, you could totes write a whole story/a whole villain around that theme. But, if you're just trying to make an all-in-good-fun good vs. evil adventure story, you don't really need to overthink it if you don't want to. If you were to mix the two up in a clumsy way - say, an oversimplified villain in a story that's supposed to make you think, or a villain who's so transparently a tool designed to push the author's philosophical agenda in a story where it comes off as inappropriate, irrelevant and convoluted - well, that's not great writing, is all.

A personal ramble regarding villains: I finally played Breath of the Wild this winter and I was kinda bummed out by how Ganon had been boiled down into this generic, gooey cloud of pure evil. I love the Zelda series, and I love the older versions of Ganondorf where he's cold, and calculating, and manipulative and greedy. He's always been a pretty simple dude, 'cause after all, he doesn't need to be anything more complicated than "the evil guy" for a Legend of Zelda game to work, plot-wise. But a goo-cloud? C'mon! The ending was short and unsatisfying; no defeated Ganondorf floating off into oblivion, cursing Link's name. But, the journey to get there was a phenomenal gameplay experience, and I guess that was enough. Also, Princess Zelda got so much more time in the character development limelight than she traditionally gets, so yay! That was cool. But still... goo-cloud.

But your mileage may vary. I'm sure lots of people were fine with Evil Goop Ganon. He certainly served his purpose.
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One week ago, 8:22 PM #53
MK_Wizard

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Ganon is definitely the kind of evil villain I like to write about though there are varying versions of him too just as there are varying Links and Zeldas. I stopped playing the games after Twilight Princess because I didn't have time for them anymore. However, my favourite version of Ganon/Ganondorf was the Ocarina of Time one. That one is also a good example of someone being offered a chance to be good (he was offered that chance from the start), but it wasted with deceit and manipulation. Later on in Wind Waker, we learn that he had a rough past, but again, going back to things, he didn't have to be evil. When he reached out to the King of Hyrule, he was more than willing to be an ally and help his people, but Ganondorf was greedy. He didn't want an equal partnership or to make his own country better. He wanted everything.
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One week ago, 8:29 PM #54
DiggityDogDingo

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MK_Wizard:I meant that I am talking about ALL kind of purely evil villains from varying stories, backgrounds and origins, but the one factor they have in common is that they are beyond redemption and are just pure evil.




I think we're waiting on some examples of that at this point.



I'll put my money where my mouth is and submit Emperor Zerg from Toy Story who was manufactured to be a hellacious creature bent on universal distruction.
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One week ago, 8:43 PM #55
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MK_Wizard:When he reached out to the King of Hyrule, he was more than willing to be an ally and help his people, but Ganondorf was greedy. He didn't want an equal partnership or to make his own country better. He wanted everything.


Yeah, right? We never see Ganondorf's upbringing and childhood. It's not important. We're given just a few lines of game script to make our own inferences to his motives - he was the first male born to the Gerudo in, what, like a hundred years? He was put on a pedestal from birth, and raised to be King of the Gerudo? No wonder he grew up power-hungry. But again, it's not important. All we need to know is that Ganon is gunning for the Triforce of Power, and he's gotta be stopped or else. With swords!

Also, like, look at Lord of the Rings - it kicked off the entire genre of high fantasy. An instant classic. Tolkien went on to write all kinds of supplementary tomes explaining who and what Sauron was, but filling the LOTR trilogy with all that would've been detrimental. Our lack of knowledge about Sauron's backstory and inner motivations just made him a more daunting enemy. So yeah, plenty of times when an evil villain is just plain evil and it works out fine.

But legit, those guys don't give us a lot to talk about as independent characters. Standing alone, they're pretty boring. Rather, they cause us to look at our main, good-guy, protagonist characters more carefully. 'Cause it's not the... evil-ness of it all that provokes interest; it's how the heroes *react* to the evil/conflict that makes the story.
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One week ago, 8:45 PM #56
MK_Wizard

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I think it depends on the story. For those stories, how heroes react is the story being told and it is compelling because you see how different people react to the war being raged. You have politicians, leaders, seasoned fighters and even everymen. In other situations, getting into both sides heads' is compelling too as Netlfix's Sher-Ra has shown. It all comes down to the kind of story you're trying to tell.
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One week ago, 8:56 PM #57
swamp
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MK, people are repeatedly saying giving a villain a tragic past or complex motivation does not mean you have to sympathize with them, forgive them, or allow their cruelty to continue.

We all have limits to our empathy. That is fair and reasonable. But

Wide empathy does not mean we have to be naive. Again, I can see why a murderer took a bad path in life without then saying he's a poor widdle baby who just needs hugs.

We do not need to coddle our readers. Recognizing a character is hurt does not mean they need a redemption arc. Azula from Avatar is a great example. In her last episode, we see the outline of a broken teen, furious at a world that didn't love her, and some viewers may pity her. Others might not. But she remains an enemy to be defeated, and the story never excuses her actions or attempts to redeem her.

And not all villains are corrupted by tragedy. Some villains are corrupted by being worshipped or never being held accountable! Some just don't connect with regular morals! And these reasons don't need to be in story.

It feels like underneath this thread, there is a feeling of... not wanting to recognize the humanity or horrible people. And I don't think that's a healthy instinct to embrace, and I don't think fighting it means I excuse or allow the horrible actions.

Someday, you might learn somebody you care about has done something beyond forgiveness. And not being able to hold both sympathy, and an understanding that some things cannot be forgiven or redeamed leaves you with two paths

1. You make excuses. If some people are one of the bad ones, they must be one of the good ones. It's not their fault. It's abuse. It's society. It's chemistry. It's a lie.
2. You deny anything good in them, and in doing so, deny real emotions, real good times, real experiences.

The first makes you a monster. The second breaks you. When I had a chance, I chose the second. And it took me years to figure out how to deal with it.O ne of the most important things I want to give my readers is help dealing with a world where monsters are people, where sometimes you love monsters, and sometimes you hate people who need your kindness desperately. And that the true secret is there's no line between evil people and people who do evil things. There's reasons, and there's acts, and there's the choices you have to make knowing the second, maybe never knowing the first.

I liked you. You had good in you. You've been through a lot. You have done things I cannot forgive, that it's not my place to forgive. If given freedom, you may do them again. It is not my place to redeem you or my duty to loath you.
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One week ago, 9:07 PM #58
MK_Wizard

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swamp:MK, people are repeatedly saying giving a villain a tragic past or complex motivation does not mean you have to sympathize with them, forgive them, or allow their cruelty to continue.

We all have limits to our empathy. That is fair and reasonable. But

Wide empathy does not mean we have to be naive. Again, I can see why a murderer took a bad path in life without then saying he's a poor widdle baby who just needs hugs.

We do not need to coddle our readers. Recognizing a character is hurt does not mean they need a redemption arc. Azula from Avatar is a great example. In her last episode, we see the outline of a broken teen, furious at a world that didn't love her, and some viewers may pity her. Others might not. But she remains an enemy to be defeated, and the story never excuses her actions or attempts to redeem her.

And not all villains are corrupted by tragedy. Some villains are corrupted by being worshipped or never being held accountable! Some just don't connect with regular morals! And these reasons don't need to be in story.

It feels like underneath this thread, there is a feeling of... not wanting to recognize the humanity or horrible people. And I don't think that's a healthy instinct to embrace, and I don't think fighting it means I excuse or allow the horrible actions.

Someday, you might learn somebody you care about has done something beyond forgiveness. And not being able to hold both sympathy, and an understanding that some things cannot be forgiven or redeamed leaves you with two paths

1. You make excuses. If people are one of the bad ones, they must be one of the good ones. It's not their fault. It's abuse. It's society. It's chemistry
2. You deny anything good in them, and in doing so, deny real emotions, real good times, really experiences.

The first makes you a monster. The second breaks you. When I had a chance, a chose the second. And it took me years to figure out how to deal with it.One of the most important things I want to give my readers is help dealing with a world where monsters are people, where sometimes you love monsters, and sometimes you hate people who need your kindness desperately. And that the true secret is there's no line between evil people and people who do evil things. There's reasons, and there's acts, and there's the choices you have to make knowing the second, maybe never knowing the first.

I liked you. You had good in you. You've been through a lot. You have done things I cannot forgive, that it's not my place to forgive. If given freedom, you may do them again. It is not my place to redeem you or my duty to loath you.


I'm sorry if I came across like that. I didn't mean to and everyone here knows that I am not the persecuting type. I have sympathy for people, I believe in change and I do believe in forgiveness. I really do, but some of these posts were a bit angry because some medias do give young boys and girls bad messages and I can't be the only one who has seen that. Also, cases of people getting let off easy happens a lot in real life and in fiction.

I stand by mercy and compassion, but I also stand by making amends properly if that makes sense. If some of my comments came off as angry, it's because I was and I am not proud of it. I just don't like having words put into my mouth or being made into a bad guy when I didn't do anything. Maybe I was misunderstood, but even then, I can handle being made aware of a mistake, but I will not accept being told that I am something I'm not. I do recognise humanity in villains, but for some very, VERY specific villains, they traded their humanity a long time ago. They are not the norm though. Very few villains have reached that point even in fiction.

Look, I'm no judge or jury. All I believe is that reparation is a very necessary part of redemption. And that is something I intend to show in my own writing. You can't just turn around, say sorry and all of the sudden you're forgiven. The path to true redemption is long and there are some people who will never forget, but that's a different topic entirely.
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One week ago, 9:21 PM #59
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MK_Wizard:I have sympathy for people, I believe in change and I do believe in forgiveness.


I still think you are not understanding though.

What I am trying to say is sympathy has nothing to do with forgiveness. And forgiveness has nothing to do with redemption.

I do think it can be dangerous to teach children to always forgive, but has nothing to do with whether they sympathize.

I am not trying to make you the bad guy, I just don't think we should combine 'cannot forgive/will not be redeemed' with 'is not sympathetic or tragic'

To me, there is nothing more tragic than somebody who lives their life in hatred and will never change.
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One week ago, 9:26 PM #60
MK_Wizard

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I see. Perhaps this thread brought out something in me or some of my own trauma... I'm truly sorry for that. It's not you who made me angry or made me feel that way though.

Maybe I shouldn't have started a conversation I couldn't handle because I am an understanding and tolerant person. I don't sit there hating anyone. Life is too short for hating. I mean, just look at my art. That speaks volumes about what it is my heart which is all about joy and fun. Anyone I once hated is not even in my life anymore so I have let go of my old hate. My only challenge is getting over bad memories. Hate is gone, but pain takes years to recover from. I mean, it took me years to gain the courage to get back on Internet and share my art after my last experience.
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