APPLIED PHILOSOPHY

To be a Good Person, You Must Understand Your Evil

In order to be a good person, you must be able to understand your evil within. To have the epiphany that you are capable of danger, and to not cast it upon your fellow-man, is the epitome of virtue, for a moral compass is no longer necessary if one is not capable of evil. That being said, we as individuals all own the capacity of evil and it’s important to discover it before it’s too late.

Those who are ignorant of the evil within themselves are those who get overtaken by evil. In the Garden of Eden, Eve was easily fooled by the serpent, partly because it is impossible to prevent or fight against something that you don’t know exists, until it consumes you. Going further, the fruit she consumed was the knowledge of good and evil. So prior to the knowledge of evil, there was no knowledge of good, because you can’t have good if you’re living in ignorance of evil.

Clinical psychologist Jordan Peterson, who is also a professor of Psychology at the University of Toronto, often puts his students in a deep state of personal reflection. One of the thoughts he brought into question was, if you lived in Nazi Germany in the 1930’s through the 1940’s, would you have become a Nazi soldier? Though we would like to believe that we would be different, that we would fight and resist the absolute evil that was occurring, the truth is, there is roughly a 90 percent chance that we would have become Nazis.

In another one of his many lectures that can be found on YouTube, Peterson said the following, “Part of personality development is to understand your shadow, and the shadow is those things about you that you do not want to admit to. You can learn about your shadow by reading history. You can read about Auschwitz… you can imagine yourself as a guard, instead of as a heroic rescuer of unfortunate victims which would be very unlikely, and once you can imagine yourself as a guard, which is a terrifying thing to do, then you can begin to understand something about yourself. I think you cannot have proper respect for yourself until you know that you’re a monster. Because you won’t act carefully enough.”

Why is it important to know that we as individuals have evil within us? It is so we understand it, so we can call it out when we see it. Whether that be when we look out into the world, or when we look into the mirror. Not being oblivious to the evil that dwells in our minds is what gives us the ability to make righteous decisions.

During my moment of honest self-reflection, I began to feel ashamed. Not only am I capable of evil, but in some instances I’ve acted on it. Searching for comfort and understanding I found the words of the Apostle Paul, a man well-known for his righteousness and his ability to preach the Gospel. Despite this, Paul was still aware of his capacity of evil. Within his emotionally charged letter to the Church in Romania (Romans 7:14-25), Paul wrote:

14For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin. 15For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. 16But if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that the Law is good. 17So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. 18For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. 19For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. 20But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. 21I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. 22For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, 23but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members.24Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? 25Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin.

With all this being said, I hope that you take time to examine yourself for we are a product of the decisions that we make. So I ask, are you making the right decisions? Are you acting out the evil that is within you? As wretched as I am, I pray that you will discover your evil within, in order to give grace. I also pray that you will be released from the shackles of your flesh, and you live a loving life that is worthy of your calling.

 

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