What is one to do when confronted by stories of evil?


All Writings, Blog, Psychology / Friday, March 23rd, 2018
Be wise to the existence of evil
Be wise to the existence of evil

I understand that so many of us would like to find a place of security and comfort, away from all the evil done in our world today.  And who are the doers of great evil?  Not the wild animals or some predatory birds; it is the people who live right among us, people who look and talk like us, but inside their hearts are the darkest of malicious secrets.  Evil exists and there is no use denying it.  What is more, there are also those who take pleasure in evil.  There truly are humans who derive sadistic pleasure from inflicting pain on others.  Are they limited to any one race, religion, ethnicity, gender, or society?  No.  Such ones can be found everywhere.  What is more, the potential for doing what is bad – not necessarily the unspeakable evil we read or hear of – is in any and all of humankind.  Therefore, we should be neither naive nor surprised.  However, we should be aware of this potential.

Especially with the bombardment of information that leans more toward corrupting the minds than toward improving humanity, through movies, video games, and simply by what we consider everyday news, we could all do well by heeding the advice given by the apostle, Paul.

1 Corinthians 14:20 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

Brethren, do not be children in your thinking; yet in evil be infants, but in your thinking be mature.

Examples we see in the news can cause disgust, surprise, or arouse the desire for vengeance.  We may even have become hardened to the point of being unresponsive or beaten into a sense of numbness, but by no means should there be a refusal to believe in the reality of such events happening.

The instinct to judge, to know the minds of such people, and the desire to understand the underlying causes1 2 3 4might well influence the mind of a thinking person, but the process of thinking should go beyond those things.  We cannot limit our thoughts to those processes alone and not utilize our knowledge to make decisions about who we wish to be as individuals.  The world has seen unspeakable evils, even on genocidal scales, an explanation for which cannot be sufficiently made without believing in the existence of the Devil.5 6  This being the case, it is wise not to esteem oneself too highly and consider oneself pure beyond corruption.  Until mankind is cleansed from within, the potential for evil shall continue.  Even so, the survival in this less-than-perfect state is possible by remaining watchful with a calm mind, being modest, and seek to be mature as Paul said.

The other part of Paul’s advice is just as important, and it is possible to do.  Despite having full awareness and understanding of evil, a person can still choose the position – yet in evil be infants”.  Not only is it possible, it is also necessary, though it continues to become harder.  There is no need for a person to gain an understanding by doing the specific evil act or practice it secretly, to believe that it will cause harm to others, and also to one’s own self.  It is a conscious choice and comes with balance and time.  What one cannot do is be wishful of evil suddenly disappearing in our present world and imagining that it has already happened.  Such thinking is a dangerous delusion.

If one takes time to associate with those who encourage good behavior and good thoughts, and also chooses to unhypocritically believe in the worth of leading a life of virtue, such a goal is possible to meet.  As great evil can be implanted into the human mind, great virtue too can be.  Though it isn’t possible to altogether win this fight in our minds, it is possible to let the use of one’s mind be directed by choices that yield peace.  An honest, clean living – no matter what the persuasion of belief – is required.  Does it exist solely within one system of belief?  Possibly not, though it must be said that some systems of belief establish the distinction between good and bad more clearly, and even more rigidly than others.  The information one needs to nourish the mind is available to everyone.  It finally comes down to choice – the exercise of free will.

Some choice comes through careful thought, while some will come from instantaneous heroism.  The media bias today leans heavily in favor of remembering tragedies in terms of perpetrators, weapon specifications, and gruesome details, but the victims and heroes should deserve the greater attention in our personal thoughts.  Should they not?

The part of our thinking and feeling that acts a moral filter – our conscience – should remain intact.  First of all, the conscience should get a chance to develop.  It is the spiritual part of our thinking that allows us to make a decision not to become molded by the legitimization of evil in society.  Excessive attention to the news and even the kind of debased entertainment put out in movies and video games create a distorted image, not only of the world but also of oneself.  The power to refuse to be shaped by these influences and to initially recognize evil as what it is in actuality, is necessary.  Apart from a working conscience that recognizes human worth and backed by faith in God, it is a losing battle for the collective humankind.


Note: The specific tragedies mentioned here are examples of what human society must know, but the principle from Paul’s writing applies beyond a specific case, person(s), or society.

Footnotes

  1. Why do ordinary people commit evil deeds?
  2. Good People, Evil Actions
  3. Why Do People Do Bad Things?
  4. What Makes a Psychopath? Answers Remain Elusive
  5. Psychology seeks to find an explanation through the classification of Narcissistic personality disorder
  6. The Bible identifies traits that would be noticed among individuals during a time it calls, Difficult days

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