The Thing I Like About …

Marvel’s Agents of Shield: the nature of Ward’s brokenness.

Grant Ward is a complicated character in Shield; he had an extremely abusive childhood that left him scarred and vengeful. He double-crosses everyone around him – even people he seems to really care about – and takes delight in their discomfort … but at the same time, he longs for the kind of human contact that other people, with ordinary childhoods, take for granted. Because of the horrible things that happened to him when he was small and vulnerable, he is truly broken – no longer capable of the sorts of feelings that connect humans to one another. Even his love – for the few that he loves – is a bullying, frantic sort of love that seeks more to control than to enjoy. Anything that goes wrong becomes an opportunity for Ward to re-enact his childhood dynamic in his own favour, by taking power in the only way he knows how: through emotional trickery, manipulation, and violence.

Ward eventually becomes so dangerous and so hurtful that the only choice is to remove him from the equation; he’s killed so many people, and ruined so many lives, that the only thing left to protect the world from him is to take him out of it. His actions have caused an unbelievable amount of pain and suffering to countless others … and all because a couple of people were abusive to a couple of kids.

Ward is one man, tormented by three people … and from that comes more destruction and more sorrow than we can count. The fruits of his parents’ and brother’s “work” have far eclipsed any of the personal pain they inflicted on him, and Ward has truly spread the poison of his brokenness in an exponential fashion.

Why is that important?

On one hand, it means that we can’t underestimate the impact of cruelty – one bad act can spawn a thousand more. The pain in one man’s heart can damage a hundred or a thousand or a million others. Suffering and hatred grow like weeds.

But on the other hand, so does love. The love in one man’s heart can save a hundred or a thousand or a million. One act of kindness or bravery or selflessness can ripple out far beyond its source, and build something pervasively good.

It isn’t that each of us might be Ward; it’s that each of us might be his abusers – or his saviours. Whichever we decide to be will affect far more than just our small interactions with one other person. We can’t underestimate our own power, our own impact, for the bad or for the good.

Whatever seed we plant will grow. Like a weed.

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