Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Defining Evil

Am I evil?

This question tends to be asked by some unfaithful spouses, either outright or in more subtle ways. This often stems from an attempt to deal with guilt, and perhaps the seeming lack of control the unfaithful spouse experienced.

Punishing one's self can also be an outgrowth of this view. It can be compounded in frequent affairs, creating a vicious cycle of feeling shame for cheating, which lowers one's self-esteem, which causes them to find someone who makes them feel better about themselves, which leads to more cheating.

Then you have, in many cases, hurt spouses fresh from the trauma of discovering the unfaithful spouse's affair confirming that assessment. If a hurt spouse gets into punishing mode, the unfaithful spouse in some cases gets the clear message: "you are the devil."

But is the unfaithful spouse evil? Is even a serial cheater doomed to be labeled such all their life?

There is no getting around it. Betraying your spouse is a damaging action. One could rightly label the act evil. But one could label gossip as evil as well. True, infidelity has more serious consequences than most gossip, but that doesn't negate the fact that both activities can be called evil. As could many other damaging decisions and actions, even when such is due to human error, like a doctor making a mistake on the operating table, or even no human input, like a hurricane.

But you'll notice a key difference. We can freely label activities as evil, and most of us have committed evil acts, but are humans inherently evil for doing evil? Or is there a sickness of humanity that makes some of us evil and destined to evil works continually?

At this point, we could delve into the theological aspects of anthropology as it relates to creation. Humans were not created as evil but became corrupted and thus prone to evil. The question still to be asked, however, is the unfaithful spouse evil for having betrayed the trust and love of their spouse?

It depends upon whether you allow evil to define who you are, or allow who you are to conquer evil. 

This is more than a nifty turn of phrase. When self-esteem is based upon your value as a person instead of what you've done, as we discussed in the two previous articles on the topic, you do not allow the evil actions to define you as evil. Instead, you seek ways to conform your actions to who you know you are as a person, thus overcoming evil instead of giving into it.

But you will be tempted to give into it. Why? Because giving in is easier than fighting. Because giving in justifies that you cannot change, that you have no control, and are a victim of the uncontrolled evil person you are. Because giving in means you'll settle for the familiar patterns of interactions instead of exploring new ways of living. Because if you are just an evil person, you don't have to change. Fighting for improving yourself is viewed as a lost cause.

We've all made bad decisions. I've not paid back some money I've owed on more than one occasion. Does that make me a serial money stealer who is destined to not pay back bills, or someone who has made bad financial decisions but can do better if I address the issues that lead me into that situation?

To accept the former is to say I can't change. To accept the later allows me to take responsibility and do something about it.

Are you evil for betraying your spouse? No. Did you allow yourself to be put into the position to be tempted to commit an evil act and give into it? Yes. That, however, can be overcome and changed.

Are you using the "I'm evil" card as an excuse to continue? Something to think about.

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