Practice of the Week
Face the Evil
Face the Evil
If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart? (Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn)
A: Face Your Participation in the Sadness of the World
Journal each day for 10 days. At the end of the day, take inventory:
- In what ways were you blind to that which is most life-giving?
- Who or what did you refuse to see?
- How or when did you neglect the magnificence of interconnected living?
B: Answer Evil with Empathy
Martin Luther King said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” So for this part of the exercise, empathize with people who do things that seem evil to you.
Every day for 10 days, collect or recall a story of a person doing evil. You might recall an infamous person from history who committed atrocities. Or you might leaf through the morning newspaper for accounts of people behaving in ways that strike you as evil. Or google “evil acts.” Begin by sketching in your journal each day one thing that one person did that struck you as evil.
Then: empathize. This is likely to be an exercise of your imagination. Imagine what the purported evil-doer was feeling and needing that produced the “evil” behavior? “Feeling” refers to emotions experienced -- sad, mad, glad, scared, and disgusted are the basic ones (SEE HERE for identifying emotions). “Needing” refers to any universally shared desire, keeping in mind that “universally shared” doesn’t mean “universally indulged or pursued.” Describe those feelings (which you, too, have felt) and those needs (the wants that you, too, are prone to have) that, as best you can guess, account for the behavior in question.
C: Do Something!
Edmund Burke said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good people to do nothing.” So after spending 10 days on "A" and "B," form a plan of action to reduce the evil in the world. Whether in your personal life, or in a more public sphere, do something beyond what is normal for you – something that lessens the impact of an "evil" in the world.
* * *
For list of all weekly practices: "Practices of the Week Index"