Sunday’s Wisdom #120: Burned by Our Own Fire

“It’s a dark world. And for the past four years, I have watched you, and Oliver, and Laurel, and Thea, and Roy, I have watched all of you use a little darkness to fight it.”

“It’s true. Sometimes we do fight fire with fire. But every time we do, Felicity, every single time, we risk being burned.”

– Felicity Smoak & John Diggle, Arrow
Season 5, Episode 15, “Fighting Fire With Fire”

It’s a simple truth that sometimes there are no simple, easy answers.

At this moment in the show, Felicity’s soul is reeling from the loss of a man she had feelings for, even if such feelings were still in the early stages of blooming. Her usual, natural empathy has been running short ever since, and she’s been dirtying her hands with underhanded, aggressive tricks, including intimidation, blackmail, and more. In this scene, her friend, Digs, well acquainted with crossing the line, as well as the risks and consequences of such, tries to pull her back.

The irony is that Felicity should be more aware of the truth of her friend’s words.

Their leader, Oliver, once bloodied his hands in battle. Then he chose a different way, swearing never to kill again, not for any reason. But then his hand was forced one more time, and he relapsed. He exercises more discretion than he did before, but he’s still dropping bodies. With that option now back on the table in any situation, Ollie intended to kill their current enemy, a psychopathic serial killer with much innocent blood on his hands. But said enemy was clever and cruel, and tricked Oliver into killing the very man Felicity is mourning, a choice that sowed terrible consequences which are still coming to fruition.

If Ollie had chosen to go back to his oath, if he had stepped back from the darkness one more time, then there is every possibility that Felicity’s boyfriend would still be alive, and their team would safer for it. Felicity has, right in front of her eyes, an example of getting burned after choosing to fight fire with fire. She should know, better than most, the blindness that comes with using darkness to fight darkness.

In real life, I know I am all too guilty of falling back on this. It’s something I will be working on forever, to try and curb that tendency of mine to hurl snide, self-superior insults at the people who hurl them at me. It’s a human failing to repay such like with like, spite with spite, venom with venom, and flame, and darkness, and screaming. And that’s only the more domestic examples, which I am personally guilty of.

There are so many examples of worse things, all rooted in some belief that somehow we can repay the favors of Hell with hellfire, and still say that we’re only doing what needs to be done. I’m not sure what’s worse, resigning ourselves to becoming a devil, or thinking we can resort to any measures and still call ourselves morally superior to others. Either way, we lose our humanity.

Of course, most of us don’t have such extreme examples of such in our normal, everyday lives. At least, not as of yet. But it’s the little things, repeated every day, which become permanent parts of who we are. It’s the tiny ember of anger, nurtured over time, which becomes a blazing hatred. It’s a single moment, where we casually dismiss someone who disagrees with us, that becomes, through repetition, a dehumanizing act. It’s one small, slightly dirty trick that becomes a career in illicit deeds.

And every time, we chip away at our own humanity, our compassion. Eventually, even if we aren’t burned by others, we end up burning ourselves.

The ultimate tragedy is not how others harm us, but how we harm ourselves.

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