the woes of Theon No-joy

I was recently introduced to “Game of Thrones” – I am quite late to this party, but I suppose “better late than never” still applies. My reaction to the first episode: “Wow.”

I have repeated that sentiment often throughout the past three seasons. “Game of Thrones” is a show that flaunts the true selfishness of human behavior. Nearly every character is guilty at some point of acting/reacting with only their interests in mind. But just as the author enjoys showcasing such horrible behavior, he is also clearly a fan of demonstrating the cycle of karma. As I complained repeatedly about how horrible Dany’s brother was, my friend simply responded with “Comeuppance.”  And wow, did he ever get some comeuppance. Martin definitely knows how to deliver Karma’s defining judgment.

And this leads me to Theon Greyjoy. Poor Theon – though technically a prisoner of the Starks, he grew up in better conditions and with a more loving family than his own. He refused to let go of his bloated sense of entitlement. Theon wanted power and respect, but the lesson he never learned from Ned Stark was the power of humility and integrity. His initial intentions for be allowed to visit his father were honorable – get ships to help Robb Stark in his fight against the Lannisters. But, like most of us, Theon craved acceptable and respect. He did not recognize that he already had both with the Stark family, but he quickly chose to betray Robb in order to win his father’s approval. That’s bad enough, but Theon took it a step further and attacked the Stark home (and Northern capital) of Winterfell. He even went so far as to fake the death of Robb’s two younger brothers in a desperate attempt to prove he was something that he wasn’t – a leader.

Theon’s reign doesn’t last and he soon finds himself captured and tortured by the son of a Northern ally. Comeuppance, right? Yay karma. Except Theon comes to himself during a brief respite from the torture and confesses to the man he thinks is a friend that he made the wrong choice to betray the Starks. Theon sadly muses that his true father lost his head at King’s Landing (Ned Stark). Theon doesn’t die, but he does endure more torture from the sadistic son, including being disfigured.

Whether we want to admit it or not, most of us can relate to Theon on some level. Do we have that person/persons in our life who we greatly desire acceptance from? Does it haunt us and blind us from seeing the people in our life who already love us just as we are? Have we ever shirked a friend because our new friend or boyfriend/girlfriend doesn’t like that person? I have been on both sides of that – I have shied away from people because my significant other preferred so, and I have been betrayed because my friend believed her boyfriend over me. Does she deserve some kind of comeuppance for that? Do I deserve the same for my actions? The answer to both is yes. Yes, we do. But what if we were granted mercy? What if we granted mercy to those who hurt us?

Mercy is not a virtue that makes many appearances on “Game of Thrones.” People are either too selfish or too righteous, but the “right thing” isn’t always the right thing to do. Ned Stark should know that better than anyone. Sometimes people need mercy.

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