“Who is there that has not experienced the daily conflict within himself between the forces of Evil and the forces of Good?” ~Mahatma Gandhi
“We can talk about courage and love and compassion until we sound like a greeting card store, but unless we’re willing to have an honest conversation about what gets in the way of putting these into practice in our daily lives, we will never change. Never, ever.” ~Brene Brown
“There are a thousand hacking at the branches of evil to one who is striking at the root.” ~Henry David Thoreau
We happen to be pretty wired to avoid the topic of “evil”. The aversion we have to the word itself deserves attention. Let’s talk about this taboo instead of leaving it in the dark cobwebs of a basement. Self-knowledge powers self-transformation. This means knowing ourselves.
A Person’s Two Sides
Even in children’s cartoons, a common depiction is an angel on one shoulder and the devil on the other. Most of us interpret this to mean internal voices, not external voices. It’s simple and playful, but 100% relatable.
Sometimes, we’re not our better selves. Sometimes we are our lesser selves. We even know the physiological basis of this in our brains, particularly in the neocortex and amygdala. We do have our wonderful qualities of course. We have love, courage, wisdom, beauty. There is the magnificent and majestic in humankind. But this is not all there is to us. I for one can be harsh, fearful, not good enough, judgmental, irritable, impatient, procrastinating, envious, jealous, addicted, arrogant, superior, inferior, insecure, dishonest.
Are these not forms of evil? I define evil as anything inside us that keeps us from our potential. I define evil as anything inside us that holds us back. Our own enemies lurk within. We’re not always the kindest partner or colleague or friend that we like to imagine ourselves to be. Perhaps this is us when we listen to the wrong shoulder. And we don’t always see the options of our better self because of our reactivity and habitual ways.
The Real Battle Within
One of the great spiritual gems of India, about which Gandhi was commenting, is the Bhagavad Gita. The battle of good and evil in the human heart is the theme of the Gita. This theme plays out on and on throughout the ages, across cultures, and in stories everywhere.
This is not for the sake of good stories. It appeals to us because the soul knows this to be the story of our own human nature. Not only out there, in here too. When we avoid it, we engage denial which is another form of evil itself. It prevents us from seeing and adapting to things as they are. We rather see things as we wish them to be, which keeps our head in the sand like an ostrich. It may not be flattering, but it’s the doorway to what we long for! When we deny evil away, we end up with the individual and societal problems we have. That’s only a problem if we don’t use it as an opportunity to evolve from here. It’s not about deficits, it’s where the biggest opportunities lie.
Evil Should Not Be Feared
The existence of evil within is not reason for harshness with ourselves, which is also evil. Our true strength is not fearing evil. This means looking at it with calm and knowing the darkness dissipates in our light of awareness.
The need to be beyond it is another expression. Perfectionism is very different than healthy striving. It’s a reason to turn towards the practice of deeper self-acceptance. Our identities are not fixed. We are able to unwind un-useful narratives with patience and effort and attention.
The truth sets us free. Choice means showing up as who we want to be. If we don’t feel at choice and free, then we aren’t 100% in the truth. Evil is not terrorists, drug dealers, pimps, and the other guy in a bar fight.
If it’s out there, we have no power over it. We stay in a victim mindset of pointing the finger and complaining and lamenting. When we see it exists inside us and commit to studying ourselves and evolving, we learn, grow, and heal. We can gain the power and freedom to be who we are. Best to start enjoying the journey today, because positive pleasure is a force of good.
Latest posts by Prashant Goel (see all)
- On Personal Transformation: Why Give Evil A Bad Name? - June 14, 2017