Being Earth, Wanting Air, Needing Fire

"Avatar - Toph Beifong" | Art by GENZOMAN. Used with permission.

I love thinking about what sort of character I would be in another universe. I’m pretty sure most geeks do, and we love talking about it—whether it’s retelling a recent exploit as a rogue in Dungeons and Dragons, choosing a lightsaber colour, or picking our backpack in Pokémon Go, we are fans of character specialization and creation.

Therefore, after watching an episode of Avatar: The Last Airbender at one of Geekdom House’s Bible study nights, I was immediately intrigued by the question, “What kind of bender would you be?” It didn’t seem like a very in-depth question for study, but I was immediately too busy customizing my personal avatar (see what I did there) to focus on that.

I hadn’t thought about this one before, and my answer was unexpected. My first inclination was water, and it’s true I do have some waterbending traits, like a calm personality and a desire to keep the peace. But then my mind went to earthbending and I realized that had to be me.

Like all other bending, earthbending comes with its pros and cons. Recognizing them, being more aware of my personality traits, tendencies, and habits, can help me be a better friend, worker, leader, and God-follower.

I can be incredibly stubborn and I don’t like change. I can dig in my heels when I don’t want to do something (which can be good if it’s something that is bad for me, but less good if it’s something I need to do). I face problems head-on, not because that’s my natural response—I’m more inclined to Aang’s trying to find different paths around an issue—but because I make a conscious choice to do so. I don’t like my tendency to indirectness, to hinting at an issue, to passive-aggressiveness, and so I make it a point to fight against that and be direct, earthbender style. I don’t run away from problems, as much as I might like to.

Plus, I can bend metal. Therefore, that makes me Iron Man.

I forget that what I want is often not the same thing as what I need.

The next question surprised me. “What kind of bender do you want to be?”

We often want what we don’t have. Why is that? It’s maddening. On reflection, I think it has to do with pride, curiosity, and an attitude of entitlement that encourages our fixation on forbidden fruit.

If it was up to me, I would choose airbending. I am attracted to the idea of a peaceful, spiritual life. Having a carefree, go-with-the-flow attitude, being flexible, the ability to fly away—that’s the ideal me. Or is it? I see others who are incredibly spiritual and content, who hear God speaking to them on a daily basis, who are willing to be friends with anyone and everyone… Those qualities are amazing, and sometimes I find myself wishing I had them.

We were then asked, “What kind of bending do you need?

Sometimes I forget that what I want is often not the same thing as what I need. I don’t actually need more flexibility or freedom in my life; those are just strengths I admire in other people. What I really need is fire. As a stable earthbender, sometimes I lack passion and ambition. Having a flare for life, opening up to others with hopes, dreams, angers, and frustrations, instead of just listening to theirs, is an important piece of my life that I often miss.

Perhaps that is why two of my best friends are firebenders. They need my stability as much as I need their passion, and we encourage each other to take the best of both worlds.

There’s a balance to be had between accepting who I am and growing, recognizing selfish desires, and acknowledging the value of different styles other than my own.

What about you? What type of bender are you, what do you want to be, and what do you need to be? The answers might surprise you.

Allison Barron

Allison Barron

Commander at Geekdom House
Allison is like Galadriel, offering wisdom where needed but turning treacherous as the sea when competitive games are involved. She is the executive editor of Area of Effect magazine, co-host of the Infinity +1 podcast, and staff writer for Christ and Pop Culture. When she’s not writing, designing, or editing, she is often preoccupied in Hyrule, Middle-earth, or a galaxy far, far away.
Allison Barron

Latest posts by Allison Barron (see all)