Thursday, August 14, 2014

Facing Faith: Lessons from the other Slayer

You know what's great about Amazon Prime?  It's only $40 for students for a full year. You get free shipping on certain products and can watch Amazon Prime Watch Instantly for free. I've been watching Buffy: the Vampire Slayer over again and I'm currently in the third season. I really like the world building that Joss Whedon has done with this show. The third season introduces a very complicated character named Faith (played by the absolutely gorgeous Eliza Dushku), another slayer who comes to Sunnydale to replace another one that died.

Her hard exterior hides emotional pain.
Buffy occasionally runs into other slayers and it is interesting to see how different they are from her. Faith is no different. Buffy plans when in combat whereas Faith improvises. Faith is a bit of a wild girl whereas Buffy is a bit more responsible. Faith, for all of her flaws, proves to be a welcomed addition to the team and actually, a great partner for Buffy. Buffy learns to be more imaginative and resourceful with Faith. At least, things go well at first.

Buffy starts to take on too many of Faith's flaws. Eventually they both get in trouble with the law and accidentally kill a human instead of a vampire. Both the girls are in shock over their mistake. Buffy feels awful for what has happened. Faith feels nothing. Or, more accurately, shows that she feels nothing and suppresses any feelings that she may have.

Faith's emotional constipation proves to be a bigger problem than any sort of solution. She becomes a dangerous loose cannon and can't be reasoned with. Faith even violently attempts to take sexual advantage of Xander when he tries to reach out to her. Seriously, Faith could really use a 12 step group. Buffy and friends try to reach out to her only to keep hitting emotional walls and sarcastic remarks.

Faith is eventually betrayed by her watcher and escapes to try to run away. Buffy tries to reason with her only to be interrupted by vampires. Despite being overrun, Faith kills most of them and saves Buffy's life. Buffy sees that Faith still cares for her despite her wounded soul and sanity. Unfortunately, Faith chooses a villainous path (eventually finding redemption in later seasons.)

Watching Faith's story made me think about the times that I have been like Faith and when my friends have been like Faith. The thing is, I'm actually really in touch with my emotions. I can't play it cool like her and usually have to feel painful stuff 100 percent. (It's both a blessing and a curse.) Buffy and Giles want to help Faith and do so cautiously. The wrong words or wrong move will cause Faith to do what she's always done--run away.

For me, I've gotten frustrated with this because I'm not good at it. I can support a friend that comes to me who knows what they're feeling or at least knows something is up. With Faith, she has suppressed her feelings to a point of ignorance or apathy. When I've tried to show love and support to friends like this, it usually ends up becoming an argument or fight.  Thankfully, Buffy and her friends show a good example of how to be a friend that someone like Faith needs.

Lessons from Xander

In a previous episode of Buffy, before Faith accidentally kills a human being, Xander helps Faith fight a demon and they have sex. For Faith, she just wanted to have some fun. Xander comes to think that there's an emotional connection he shares with Faith only to find nothing is there and hurt from it too. When Xander reaches out to Faith he is only hurt emotionally and physically.

When people we care about are emotionally shut off from us, we need to be in a place of confidence. As much as we may want validation from them, we won't be able to get it. We have to have... faith (pun intended) that they do care about us. We need to see their unkind and insensitive words and actions come from a place of hurt and fear. It may hurt us but we have to show them that we're safe even if they are not.

Lessons from Angel

Xander is saved from Faith's abusive behavior by Angel. Angel knocks her out and she wakes up to see that she's locked up. Angel tries to reach out in empathy and understanding and Faith responds by making sexual advances trying to avoid talking about her feelings. He expresses that, no, he doesn't trust Faith but they aren't all that different.
"You and me, Faith, we're a lot alike. Time was, I thought humans existed just to hurt each other. But then I came here. And I found out that there are other types of people. People who genuinely wanted to do right. And they make mistakes. And they fall down. You know, but they keep caring. Keep trying. If you can trust us, Faith, this can all change. You don't have to disappear into the darkness." Angel, Buffy the Vampire Slayer
After not getting anywhere Angel retreats to Buffy and reports, "It's like talking to a wall. Only you get more from a wall."

Sometimes we can lose our trust in people--even our friends and allies. It can feel like we aren't getting anywhere with them and not connecting to them at all. To me, Angel does it right. He doesn't take Faith's bull crap but still reaches out in empathy and understanding. Faith has to learn to trust her friends if she's to put her unacknowledged guilt and shame behind her.

Lessons from Buffy

Faith keeps up her sarcasm even when confronted by Buffy. She even bids her to fight to try to get Buffy admit her own bloodlust. Buffy denies it and reaffirms her choice despite lashing out on Faith in a moment of weakness. Giles asks Buffy if she thinks Faith will ever turn her life around. Buffy believes that she will. Giles then believes as well but not because of Faith but because of the true friend she has in Buffy.

A true friend won't always be able to be able to save their friends from themselves. They can be an anchor or a lighthouse to them but the real saving has to come from within. When we've done all we can for friends who are hurting and numbing themselves, the only thing we can do is to continue to believe in them. We may need to take distance to take better care of ourselves. They may walk out on us. We can come to a place where it is painful and hard to love them. The people that are the hardest to love are the ones that need our love the most.


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