None of us sets out to do bad. Nobody longs for bad things. We are not people bred for evil. Even the worst of us don’t want it.
No matter how horrendous, we call our actions ‘good’. We justify it by explaining how our evil acts are actually helpful or right or necessary. We cloak our evil in goodness. Or, better said, we silence the true goodness inside of us with a cloak of evil.
The world is full of atrocity. Sins small and large are an everyday part of our lives. It seems as though the worst of us have committed to a life of torture, terror, and abuse. Some people sure seem bred for evil.
The deeper truth is that all of us long for good, but some of us have gotten so far off the path that we are delusional about what good truly is. Nonetheless, the source of our motivation is goodness. It comes down to poor, even tragic, definitions of what good means.
Evil begins with a seed of longing within each and every one of us. That longing is a longing for something good. We want purpose or belonging or love. We want to be accepted, to be cared for, to do something that matters. These are, in their inception, beautiful and good longings.
Evil enters the picture when we try to shortcut these longings, believe lies about how they manifest, or drift toward seductions that look similar. We watch porn as a misdirected pursuit of passion/love, we kill from a perverted sense of purpose, we lie out of a desire to belong, and we steal because we think having things will bring peace and security.
Evil is not a creator, it can only pervert what is already there. It takes the ingredients and casts a dark shadow over them. It mixes the recipe, switching the order of things and jumbling the whole process into a confused mess. But it doesn’t create.
Fear, anger, violence. All of the negative behaviors that plague us are secondary. They are based on a concern that we are not getting what we most long for. Worry is the absence of peace. Violence the perversion of influence. And so on.
Us and Them
It is so easy for us to sort ourselves into good guys and bad guys, us and them. The ones capable of evil and those of us inclined to good. The problem is that while everyone in the world is doing this, every one in the world is casting themselves as the do-gooders. The world is a swirl of confused casting. The atheist think they’ve got the market on good cornered. So do the Christians. And the Muslims and Buddhists and artists and athletes and politicians and jihadists and anarchists and you and me and everyone else. We think we’ve found the best way to good. Even terror is an absurd attempt to meet these deep longings.
The thing that unites us is a Transcendent purpose. The longings of every soul. What disunites us is the incorrect, misguided, and sometimes truly terrible paths we try to take to fulfill these longings.
We are all capable of evil. Each of us is equally capable of good. It comes down to the decisions we make. And the best way to guide our decisions is to name our values, determine the driving force of our longings, and live toward the truest manifestation of them.
The solution to being better, then, is quite universal. Pressing deeper, past the superficiality and the short cuts. Assessing our deepest values, asking why, taking ownership of a true perspective on what we desire and how the world is in motion to help us satisfy these longings.
We need to slow down, to assess, and ask ourselves why. And then why. And why again. Over and over, we need to dig deeper, testing our motivations, pressing in toward the source.
Life is not about ignoring our passions. It is about defining them properly. We cannot defeat our negative and evil habits by wrestling with them directly. Instead, we need to address the deep longings that feed these behaviors, celebrate their goodness, repent of the ways we’ve gotten off course, and commit to pursuing the goodness inside of us through more pure and honest paths.