Catholics, take note. We are quick to condemn sin, but slower to identify why sin is forbidden. More and more, I see that using people — treating them as things, behaving as if they are there to help us get what we want — is at the heart of nearly every sin we can commit against each other. This is why the Church loves sex but hates lust. We are created to love and be loved, not to use and be used. We may not use each other, even if we want to use them for a good reason.
Even Hugh Hefner, she proposes, likely thought his use of individual women and contributions to a misogynistic, exploitative world of porn and sexually available “girls” was ultimately in promotion of some greater good. “I am willing to believe that some dreadful, shrivelled part of him believed that, by making sex cheap and porn socially acceptable, he was doing something good for the world, something that needed to be done.”
He’s not alone in thinking we may feed as many bodies we like into the oven, as long as we tell ourselves we’re building a fire that benefits all of mankind (and never mind that mankind is made up of individual bodies just like the last one that passed through our hands).
In the end, it is not enough for any of us to fight the evil we see outside ourselves or promote the causes and organizations we consider “good”–we must always, always, in the end, turn our gaze back on to ourselves, to face the battle within–the battle over the human heart that is ultimately at the root of all human good or evil. I am the only person who can examine my own heart, the only person responsible for what comes out of it.
In her piece, Simcha quotes a Dostoevsky on the love of man vs the love of individual men. Here, I’d like to quote another Russian, Solzhenitsyn, who drew from his own experience of Soviet forced labor camps observations like the following:
Gradually it was disclosed to me that the line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either — but right through every human heart — and through all human hearts. This line shifts. Inside us, it oscillates with the years. And even within hearts overwhelmed by evil, one small bridgehead of good is retained. And even in the best of all hearts, there remains … an unuprooted small corner of evil.
Each of us faces the life-long task of weeding the evil out of our own hearts, knowing that the task will never be complete; knowing that to cease our efforts will result in our being overrun by the weeds of our own capacity for selfishness and use.
When we are most oppressed by the face of evil in the world, that is when we most need to invite the good Gardener into our own hearts, to uproot the weeds of use and sin so that our love can bear good fruit.