Superman was drowning, a hunk of Kryptonite rock strung around his neck by his arch nemesis Lex Luthor. Yet, somehow an appeal to Luthor’s female accomplice Eve Teschmacher gets the disempowering necklace removed so that he can save the day. At least that’s how it went in Superman: The Movie (1978).
They are wonderful imaginative vehicles, superhero stories. They can help us reflect on our power and how we use it or neglect to use it.
The Superman drowning scene is my favorite because it features kryptonite, a substance from his home planet that takes away his superpowers and makes him weak, can even kill him. Kryptonite is a powerful metaphor; that thing from our place of origin, from our childhood, from our deep interior that can drain our power, dis-courage us or, if we use the old etymology of the word courage (from heart), can dis-hearten us.
As we continue into our theme of courage and our InCourage small groups begin meeting this month, I am mindful that everybody has some kind of kryptonite, something that can drain away their courage. Everybody. Naming that we all have some kind of kryptonite is a truth meant to inspire compassion for others and ourselves. This ‘everybody’ truth is meant to direct our particular learning for when we each can understand and creatively engage our particular form of kryptonite, we can transform our ability to love and exercise our power wisely for the good. We can have heart, have courage to be with life as it is and move more creatively and lovingly with its currents, even steer those currents toward healing and justice. (Right up to the Oval Office, we can see the devastation and danger when we remain unconscious to our unseen patterns that steer us away from healing and justice.)
My kryptonite may be different than yours. Psycho-spiritual maps like the Enneagram (9 types) are one way to describe our kryptonite and what truth/energy/shift might remove that dis-heartening necklace from our lives. For example, in that Enneagram map, I am identified as acting often in the One pattern (reformer) with a lot of the next door Nine pattern (peacemaker). All patterns (fixations) have their upside and they have a downside, a kind of kryptonite that collapses us. In my case, my One (perfectionist) pattern can be so super sensitive (afraid) about being wrong or bad or lacking integrity that if I or another person I respect hangs that kind of accusation around my neck I can start sinking, losing heart, and losing power. My Nine side can be so super sensitive (afraid) about keeping the peace to keep connection that if the right someone tells me I’ve ruptured a relationship by being assertive it drains me into a kind of withdrawal.
If we are lucky and have matured, we may have mitigated and even largely overcome such effects, but we still respect and know the power of kryptonite. We could still point to the scar or tell the story of it. We can still be hungry, angry, lonely, tired (HALT) or sick and regress into its effect. For me, psycho-spiritual kryptonite is dissolved when my One side (reformer) truly receives again that affirmation that I am a child of God, a spark of the image of God, and when my Nine part (Peacemaker) really experiences that it’s Ok for me to assert myself even when it disturbs a kind of peace, even a false one.
This is a core part of our journey toward courage: identifying and dealing with our kryptonite so that it cannot drown us.
This is a core part of God’s Good News for us all: there is a way to deal with our kryptonite, to have it removed or transformed so that we have the heart to live in love. It doesn’t mean we can leap buildings in a single bound or are faster than a speeding bullet or can stop a locomotive. That’s for superheroes. For human beings, it means there’s a way through to love, a path to healing, and a road to justice, and we have the courage (heart) to keep traveling.
What’s your kryptonite?
What Good News from God might dissolve it?