The Martyr vs. The Trickster

Photo by Fred Kearney on Unsplash


Stolen from Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert


We all have a bit of trickster in us, and we all have a bit of martyr in us (okay, some of us have a lot of martyr in us), but at some point in your creative journey you will have to make a decision about which camp you wish to belong to, and therefore which parts of yourself to nourish, cultivate, and bring into being. Choose carefully. As my friend the radio personality Caroline Casey always says: “Better a trickster than a martyr be.”

What’s the difference between a martyr and trickster, you ask?

Here’s a quick primer.

Martyr energy is dark, solemn, macho, hierarchical, fundamentalist, austere, unforgiving, and profoundly rigid.

Trickster energy is light, sly, transgender, transgressive, animist, seditious, primal, and endlessly shape-shifting.

Martyr says: “I will sacrifice everything to fight this unwinnable war, even if it means being crushed to death under a wheel of torment.”

Trickster says: “Okay, you enjoy that! As for me, I’ll be over here in this corner, running a successful little black market operation on the side of your unwinnable war.”

Martyr says: “Life is pain.”

Trickster says: “Life is interesting.”

Martyr says: “The system is rigged against all that is good and sacred.”

Trickster says: “There is no system, everything is good, and nothing is sacred.”

Martyr says: “Nobody will ever understand me.”

Trickster says: “Pick a card, any card!”

Martyr says: “The world can never be solved.”

Trickster says: “Perhaps not … but it can be gamed.”

Martyr says: “Through my torment, the truth shall be revealed.”

Trickster says: “I didn’t come here to suffer, pal.”

Martyr says: “Death before dishonor!”

Trickster says: “Let’s make a deal.”

Martyr always ends up dead in a heap of broken glory, while Trickster trots off to enjoy another day.

Martyr = Sir Thomas More.

Trickster = Bugs Bunny.

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