Opposition in All Things

Fact: Romance is the best-selling fictional genre in North America.

I suspect it’s probably also the best-selling genre in the UK, in Australia, and in South America.  When discussing the popularity of romance novels, people often call upon the old adage that says, “Everybody loves a lover.”

True enough, but I believe there’s a lot more to it than falling in love with a handsome hero or a beautiful heroine. A good romance novel, I think, should give us characters we love — and also characters we love to hate. One of the reasons romance novels have attained such immense popularity is likely because of the latter, not so much because we enjoy reading about “bad people” and the “bad things” they do, but because we do enjoy seeing them get what they deserve.

Romance novels are based upon an underlying premise that life is ultimately fair. Happy endings come to those who share love,  who willingly sacrifice for the greater good, and who reach out to help others. In the same spirit of fairness, the villains of romance are punished for their sins. Many times, in fact, they suffer the same unfortunate end as their victims.

  • Those who have maliciously taken the lives of others lose their own lives.
  • Those who have rejected others find themselves outcast and alone.
  • Those who have exploited others are likely to find themselves in situations that mirror the experiences of those they hurt.
  • Those who have used power and authority in corrupt ways are diminished and brought down from their lofty positions. They find themselves subject to a greater authority.

Of course, not all villains are truly evil. Some are misguided, misunderstood, or mistaken. Occasionally these not-so-bad villains are pardoned and helped along on the path of redemption. Either way, much of the satisfaction we find in reading romance novels comes from that feeling we get that justice has truly been served. Wrongs have been righted. What was lost has been regained. Truth has  been revealed. Goodness has been rewarded, and no evil deed has been left unpunished.

If only life were so neatly wrapped up and tied with pretty pink ribbons!

Unfortunately, in real life the opposite seems true as often as not. Wrongs remain unaddressed. Losses aren’t recouped. Lies and deception spread like vicious flames burning through dried grasses, and folks jokingly remark that “No good deed goes unpunished.” Quite a turn-around from the fictional worlds of romance novels.

What makes the real world so different? What makes it so much harsher, so much more painful, so much more unfair? Is this really how our world is? Is this really the way of life? Or are our perceptions perhaps a bit skewed?

No one can deny that our world contains tremendous suffering. Between cruel governments, terrorist organizations, greedy businessmen, and corrupt politicians, we are all at risk. Add in natural disasters — floods, typhoons, wildfires, hurricanes, tornadoes, and earthquakes — and no one is safe from potential danger.

Traditional teachings tell us that “for all things there must be opposition”. Yin needs its yang. Day follows night,and darkness always leads to light. Man must have woman. This is the way of the world.


Our lives will always have both pleasure and pain. We will know both joy and sorrow. Loving and being loved doesn’t erase problems. Loving and being loved isn’t going to make our lives perfect, but it will always make our lives better.  Love won’t get rid of opposition. It will enable us to overcome it.

This, I think, is the true message behind love stories and the real reason for their enduring popularity.

As the old Chinese saying goes, “May you live in interesting times.” That’s often seen as a curse, but in truth, it’s a blessing. We do live in interesting times, times that are constantly changing, constantly challenging. The world invites us to seek love, to discover its healing powers, and to share it with those who come into our lives.

In reality, while romance novels may be seen as escapist and even ridiculed for being too formulaic, the plain and simple truth is that a good love story has a powerful message of hope. Reading romance is truly a spiritual experience.


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