We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
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Friday, October 5. 2018
"Bad seed." I recently saw the term "unmotivated malignancy" somewhere, and it made me naturally think of cancer. Cancers are unmotivated malignancies.
As a Christian and as a Psychiatrist, I accept that there is a dose of evil in every human being. The 7 Deadly Sins are not a joke and there is a universal need for mercy. However, I have paid attention to people long enough to learn that there are certain people who are strongly destructively-motivated because they were "born that way." In casual conversation, "toxic" people who can be well-disguised. You could term it a "talent" like a musical talent which demands expression. Scorpions have a talent.
I am not talking about sociopaths necessarily, or other diagnoses like "Borderline." Just people who were made with a heavy dose of venom in the soul. It requires no medical diagnosis because it's on a normal spectrum, a normal distribution. Perhaps a spiritual diagnosis. Some people also seem blessed with gifts of unbounded grace, gratitude, love, warmth, and forgiveness in their souls, and thank God for that end of the spectrum.
Interesting to me is not how powerfully malevolent people make others suffer but how skilled such people can be at rationalizing their malevolence and destructiveness. "My mother was...." "My Dad was an...." "I got a raw deal..." "People didn't like me". "I was too good/enviable/bad/rebellious..." "I was abused or bullied by...." And so on. As CS Lewis dramatically illustrated, the devil is subtle and more clever and manipulative than most of us can imagine. It is up to all of us to stand up and defeat those things in ourselves, and to steer clear of them in others.
Contra lots of today's psychology, I have come to believe that some people are born with unusual doses of destructiveness and malevolence, of scheming and manipulativeness, and who take gratification in it. Not criminal murdering sociopaths. It is "unmotivated," if you accept that many or most rationalizations are baloney and simple efforts to maintain some "self-esteem." In other words, often the "cause" comes after the pattern of behavior.
Without wanting to get too evangelical on our readers, the devil comes disguised as a friend, a victim, or in the dress of an angel. I am a skeptic about exorcism but I do believe that salvation through Christ can save, reshape, souls. This is not a common view amongst my profession. I am not a "psycho-utopian" (Trademark, Maggie's Farm) in the sense that we would all be wonderful saints if only for this-or-that misfortune, mishap, etc. That is a crazy fantasy.
Evil thoughts are normal for humans. Just thoughts are the limit because we can't help our thoughts. We are all fallen, but to varying degrees. Just my opinion.
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My own background/upbringing was in a very kind and gracious small Episcopal parish. It took me years to understand that there had to be a limit to my forgiveness. I find that forgiving is one thing--tolerating repetitive abuse is not good for either party's soul!
I have so appreciated your insights, your professional knowledge and your sense of balance. Keep up the good work and thank you for this piece today.
As a footnote: I have seen babies who came home from the delivery room screaming--never stopping until they get what they want. As they grow of course the appetite changes but the sense of power to achieve the desire increases and these kids are truly evil. Also, I have seen other mothers play on a child's need to teach them to be "independent" without restraint. I have seen truly thoughtful, manipulative three year olds out there--and yes, they are always evil. My point being that evil may not be any more "genetic" than homosexuality, but it can be/is created in the individual at a very, very early age.
Faculty Wife - I recommend CS Lewis on the subject of what it means to love our neighbor as ourselves. He clears up a great deal of misconception I had. https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/163002-you-are-told-to-love-your-neighbour-as-yourself-how
Dr. Bliss, I have thought about this for years, and agree that there are inherited (though the prenatal environment may play a part) predispositions to greater and less destructiveness, greater and less destructiveness. Yet I am undecided whether this is because of genes which are present or genes which are missing. I oversimplify, but you get my drift. If the traits are polygenic, is it primarily because we got too much self-centeredness, or too little kindness. Horrible experiences can of course ruin good character, and some can be plucked from the flames with kind attention, But I am more impressed at how often those things seem to have little effect, and some more foundational character is hard-wired.
There is no reason to assume that sweetness and kindness are the default setting for humanoids.
The great apes are not angels.
Are we great apes or relative angels?
Actually, animals haven't even a few percent of the guile and malice of humanity (and man, being the gentleman he is, treats their innocence with utmost disdain.)
If we're going to make conflicted asides about evolution, how about we first observe that when it got to man, natural selection zoomed right past the civil herd. We are a most uncivil herd.
Whatever goodness we purport for ourselves is as unreliable as it is rare.
Yes, no one has ever learned to cooperate, establish trade networks, or live together in large groups. It's why we still all live in the savannah.
The mighty list of Man's accomplishments are as rare and fleeting as the parallel list of Man's inhumanity to man is overwhelming ... and Man's inhumanity everything else.
Nobody's unaware of the $.99 bumper sticker crashing the myth of The Noble Savage. But as with most partisanship, and considering the whole of human history, it's a risible - and temporary - self-indulgence.
I agree. I know people who plant nasty gossip about others with no reason. Co-workers who sabotage others work or malign them to other co-workers. I have also known people who do far worse, violence, robbery, etc. They use smiles and a civil manner to get close and suddenly strike.
One of the things people like this tend to have in common is a smile and apparent friendliness even/especially when you don't even know them. They also tend to have a quick temper, easily over react and are prone to spewing racy, filthy insults when crossed.
Peck identified clinical evil in the 1979 Road Less Traveled (and fully reprised it People of The Lie. The first cast Jesus' mandates as the natural equivalents of release to clinical correction - to accepting absolute honesty "no matter the cost", including to self - and the follow-on book isolated clinical cases of the opposite, or evil as a formal diagnosis.
If there's a meaningful dichotomy to life it's between the pursuit of truth at any and all cost ... and the pursuit of The Lie at any and all cost.
"Satan can make men dance upon the brink of hell as though they were on the verge of heaven."
First step is to recognize the evil in oneself. Not a pleasant thing to do.
A fine piece. Thank you.
You may be interested in this thoughtful essay on the movie “No Country for Old Men,” titled, Demonic Evil and the Limits of Tradition:
Dittos to the Texan. I linked the review on FB with a recommendation.
Fourteen years as a road deputy taught me that evil definately exists in humans.
"I accept that there is a dose of evil in every human being."... Sorry but we compare ourselves among ourselves and think we are not like those who do very evil things . However "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?" which means we don't even recognize the depths of evil that is in all of us and we are capable of horrible acts given the right time and temptation.
Consider Nazi Germany. Many started as educated moral people but little by little became cruel and sadistic killers yet it seemed justified to each one of them at the time. What sould we do? Love God with all our heart and our neighbor as ourselves.
Perhaps a gross oversimplification but doesn’t it all boil down to empathy and self control?