Have you ever watched a Soap Opera? Or just a long-running series? There’s often a plot device that I like to call “the switcheroo”, where the person who was seen as the bad character becomes good, or the good character becomes bad.

It’s always a good reminder of a few life lessons:

1) Things aren’t always what they seem – our understanding of a situation can change or grow over time.

2) Situations themselves change – Some things that seem heroic in one context can seem diabolical in another.

When we identify villains in our lives, we can use them as mirrors, and ask ourselves, “When am I like that?”. Their behavior, put in the context of our own lives, often brings up areas where we are just as stubborn, just as shut off, just as biased, just as driven. And of course, we know our reasons for these feelings and actions, where it might not be as easy to identify in others.

There are also situations that we call “bad” which do serve a purpose. Forest Fires for example, The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection provides a fact-sheet on the benefits of fire. It is a powerful tool that can be friend or foe. (

• “Fire removes low-growing underbrush, cleans the forest floor of debris, opens it up to sunlight, and nourishes the soil. Reducing this competition for nutrients allows established trees to grow stronger and healthier.”

• Once cleared, “leaving room for new grasses, herbs and regenerated shrubs that provide food and habitat for many wildlife species.”

• “Fire kills diseases and insects that prey on trees and provides valuable nutrients that

enrich the soil. More trees die each year from insect infestation and disease than from


• Some species of trees and plants are actually fire dependent. They must have fire every 3-25 years in order for life to continue. Some trees have fire resistant bark and cones that require heat to open and release seeds for regeneration.

It’s change, and sometimes, it’s time and sometimes it hurts. Maya Angelou is quoted as saying, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”

We are all doing the best we can with the information we have. When we know better, we’ll do better. All we can do is try to learn and expand our understanding as we go.