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The Power of Good vs Evil

The other day, two very different news stories caught my attention. The first was the news of a young man shooting people at a mall in Oregon, killing two shoppers and himself. The other was news that the mother of football player Jerry Brown extended forgiveness to the teammate whose drunk driving caused her son’s death. I was struck by the contrast the stories presented. But also by the likelihood that the way we think about these two very different events reveals how little we understand the nature and power of good and evil.

It is seen as almost a given these days that these are dark times we live in. The world is going to hell in a handbasket and may never fully recover. Pessimism about the state and trajectory of things is practically the default position. However, a proper understanding of the power of good and evil reveals something entirely different going on. For example, which event will have greater impact: the shooting at a mall or the mother who forgives? The mother’s forgiveness. By a long shot.

Odds are excellent that you are familiar with the bible verse which says that God will visit the sins of the father onto the sons. I had always heard it was to the 7th generation, but in scripture it says to the 3rd or 4th generation (Exodus 20:5). However, not nearly as much attention is paid to the fact that scriptures say that when we are loving and obedient to God, those blessings will be passed on through 1000 generations (Deuteronomy 7:9, Exodus 20:5). That is why no matter how dark the times appear to be, good is guaranteed to prevail. It is so much more powerful than evil. When evil enters into the system of humanity, if you will, it will do several generations worth of damage. But when good enters into the system, its benefits will remain pretty well indefinitely. And that is why despite all the attention paid to evil around us, it is not only rational to be hopeful about our world, but it’s irrational to be as pessimistic as we are.

I think it’s really important for us to orient ourselves to this reality. As I’ve been writing lately, being good and enjoying a good, secure, comfortable life often seem to have no relationship with each other. It’s easy to become frustrated and discouraged. But the reality is that suffering and evil are temporary. We know that, but being finite creatures for whom a year can sometimes feel unbearably long, the reality of good that lasts through 1000 generations can be nearly impossible to see. When you’re stuck in the valley, the view from the mountaintop can be next to impossible to imagine. But when we know deep in our marrow that no good action is wasted and every evil is relatively short-lived, this can help us continue on even if we never do get out of the valley this side of the grave.

It’s also important for us to know that good is infinitely more powerful and lasting than evil, because we do live in times with an abundance of evil on lurid display. And odds are that’s only going to get worse before it gets better. Last week regular commenter treegestalt observed: “I also have a suspicion… just looking at the Karmic Weather Reports — that things could go very rapidly much worse overall. . . (I’m not predicting, just looking at the Signs of the Times & wondering if “Beware of Cliff” means something I should be worrying about…)”  Someone else I know has a long history of what is called “pre-cognition” in the wacky-world trade (that is knowing about things before they happen). He has told me several times that he’s had repeated, terrible visions of extreme unrest, rioting and suffering that he believes we are entering into.  Add in the prophecy fanatics and their growing list of signs that end times are here and the oddity of the Mayan calendar and it does give all but the most ardently skeptical soul at least a little sense of foreboding. Even if you are an argent skeptic who is immune to all the woo-woo nonsense, staid, scholarly reports about the nearly inevitable food shortage the world is facing and the government’s just released report on Global Trends 2030 should be enough to give you pause. If any of these ideas, predictions and observations have merit (and I’m guessing that they do), we will all have ample opportunity to wonder if the world really is in the process of destroying itself. Again, if we don’t understand deep in our marrow that this evil is limited in power and duration and that even relatively limited amounts of good are adequate to overcome it, we can easily give way to despair.

The other thing which I think we ought to keep in mind is that the only reason we know about Jerry Brown’s mother’s act of forgiveness is because he’s famous. It seems to be the nature of goodness that it happens out of sight while evil tends to be blared from the ramparts. Loving parents don’t make the news. Survivors overcoming their pain and helping others rarely become the subject of national attention. Foster parents are unknown to most of us unless they do something awful. Someone who gives their buddy a few bucks to tide them over until payday don’t get interviewed on cable. Because of this, it’s easy to read the papers and watch the news and think that we are being overrun by evil. But we need to remember that under the surface innumerable acts of kindness, love, forgiveness, generosity and compassion taking place. Evil is like a weed – fast growing, obnoxious and obvious. But anyone who garden knows that thriving grass, perennials and trees are the best weed control. So, no matter how dark things seem to you, take heart. Plant your seeds. Don’t be discouraged. The day of harvest will come.

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

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4 thoughts on “The Power of Good vs Evil

  1. St. Augustine lived through some “times that challenge mens souls”, also.

    He taught that evil has no substance of its own; that it is either the absence of good or a disordered good.

    For the Almighty God, who, as even the heathen acknowledge, has supreme power over all things, being Himself supremely good, would never permit the existence of anything evil among His works, if He were not so omnipotent and good that He can bring good even out of evil. For what is that which we call evil but the absence of good? – Augustine, Enchiridion (Marcus Dods translation, 1876)

    God judged it better to bring good out of evil than to suffer no evil to exist. –Saint Augustine

    He also taught that God left us a lot of freedom in the “ordering” of our times:

    “If we lead good lives, the times are also good. As we are, such are the times.” –St. Augustine

    Self-interest is a great motivator. When we have to choose between survival and our disordered desires, our species has always chosen reformation over annihilation. Unfortunately, human willfulness is the cause of much unnecessary suffering and we often refuse to listen to Divine reason until karmic determinism gives us a really hard bite in the butt.

    Gandhi also took the long view and ended is reflections about evil on a positive note:

    “When I despair, I remember that all through history the ways of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants, and murderers, and for a time they can seem invincible, but in the end they always fall. Think of it… always.” — Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948)

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  2. Pingback: Must see the good in life « BeYOUtiful: Be You

  3. QUOTE “When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

    And those who finally make it to this heaven can ask the Lord why would you create such a horrible gut wrenching concept…to create a concept of WAR and all the sickening things that happen from it. Ask Jesus why did He force children and people of all ages to see such i’ll perversions of sexual morals. Ask Jesus why would you create such a sick thing to look at,to think about, to ponder..why?. What did the people do to have to see this evil perversion and have it logged in our minds forever! Why would you create the thought of two men together and actually have it played out for all the children of the earth to see. I don’t want to see this garbage, I don’t even want to get married or raise children in this demonic world that you created. I wouldn’t want my children or anyone’s children to hear or see such a sick perversions that would be sketched in their minds forever!!! the thought and sight of gay sex should have never been. Yet you stuck it in our heads forever. you bastard.

    Ask why would a Lord who claims to be good, Why He never help the helpless children who are getting sucked off in His church….it’s just the helpless child and the devil in that room of the Lords House. Only the Lord can see it…and the helpless child who trusts in the Lord is not helped…why?

    Ask The Lord why would someone who claims to be so very forgiving curse people so horribly evil. Like Moses tells us in Deuteronomy 28. To curse the whole family tree until the end of days because some dude left the faith? How could a good Lord do this?…to me this is a disgrace! and you tell the people your very forgiving? and you tell the people to tell those who are cursed that your very forgiving? wow

    To curse people such as you have is far from forgiving. To lead people who have yet to be born and have them worship strange gods is not forgiving. To force people into eating the flesh of their own children is not forgiving…this is something so cruel so evil it’s beyond me how you can say your very forgiving. And the curses still rage on today because someone left the faith thousands and thousands of yrs ago. And all those innocent people you cursed and forced and are forcing them more and more to continuously attack Your Church to bring heartache and strife and evil to those who praise you.

    Wow…what a concept. If I didn’t read parts of the bible…I would of kept on thinking of a completely different God, a forgiving God….but this? wow

    After reading Deuteronomy 28 I almost threw up. Moses’s is one of the top 3 people in the bible…his words must be true. I should take this scripture to those who don’t believe in God, to those who hate the Catholic Church, to those who have been lead into occults,to those in politics , to those who are sexually screwed up and all the rest and show them what the good Lord did to them and their family tree because of some dude who left the faith. Would they be mad at me or The Lord

    Ok Mr Forgiveness, I got ya.

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    • I could respond – I’ve certainly never been accused of being unwilling to deal with the dark side of life head-on. But I doubt it would be productive. You sound really angry. I certainly don’t know you or what you’ve been dealing with, but I’ve heard this sort of talk from other people who are this angry. And their anger has come from a place of suffering which God did not step in to stop. So rather than respond to the substance of what you say, which I doubt you are in a position to receive anyways, all I can say is that I’m sorry for whatever you’ve had to deal with. I’m sorry that you are carrying so much anger. I’m sorry that life has been so hard and unfair.

      The only thing for you or I or anyone to say in the face of intense suffering is that if you’ve had enough of living in a world where evil goes unchecked, do whatever you can to stop the cycle. God is not going to swoop in to rescue us. This is all for us to fix. So if you, like me, wish to live in a world without violence, we must let go of violence ourselves. If we wish to live in a world where people give a rat’s ass about each other, we must start giving a rat’s ass about each other ourselves. No, we can’t fix everything ourselves. But a small rudder turns a big ship. It only takes a few uof us, willing to chose love, peace, empathy and kindness to shift the human habit of cruelty and evil. At least, that’s what I’m counting on. And if it doesn’t work, then at least I have a clear conscience.

      At any rate, I wish you well. I hope I don’t sound condescending. But although we’re coming from different perspectives in regards to God, I am so pleased to meet another human being who is willing to break the mold and say, “not good enough!” about the crap they’ve been handled. I hope one day, you can find a way to do that without all the anger and hostility, But in the meantime, I’d rather you be searching for a better way while angry and hostile than going along with the same old, same old bullship with a nice, happy-clappy attitude. Peace.

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