Saturday, May 1, 2010

The Nature & Perception Of Evil

I've spent some time considering what kind of topic I should write about after being away from Empathic Perspectives for a while. And a series of recent events has inspired this particular topic. Now you may or may not agree with what will be said here. Either way is fine, as we each have our own views on these subjects and this is merely offered up as food for thought. So if it gets you thinking, even if it gets you angry, disgusted, curious, or what have you, then its done its job. It's gotten you to think and its gotten you to react. So lets get started.

A Developmental Perspective Of Evil

If you've followed EP (Empathic Perspectives) and read some of my more personal blogs, you'll know that I was a victim of sexual abuse as a child. I won't detail it here, because it is only a point of reference to point toward how my perception of certain people was shaped later on in life and why.

As I grew up, because of these experiences as a young child, I had a number of issues that I had to wrestle with. I had an intense hatred for people like those that hurt me. I had a deep abiding shame within me, which left me feeling dirty and unclean which consequently lead me to suffer from low self esteem and depression. And ultimately, because of the latter of those issues, I fell into a pattern of self destruction with narcissistic manipulative men I dated who tended to abuse me.

When I came away from those relationships, I was broken internally. But now, tacked onto an intense hatred for sex offenders, I also had an deep abiding fear and anger toward certain kinds of men, even though I also wanted to be loved and appreciated at the same time. (Trust me, we are getting to a point here so bear with me a little while longer)

All of these life long experiences effectively twisted my perception of people causing me to see evil wherever I looked. It caused me to distrust people. And it eventually isolated me from those who cared about me. So I became a victim of my own misguided perceptions.

After being completely broken...quite literally shattered to bits, I was somehow able to slowly put myself back together again. And what I discovered was just how warped my perceptions had been. Because the evil I was seeing everywhere, well, it wasn't truly evil. It was....human.

Now understand, in saying that it is not truly evil, it does not justify any single person's actions that are wrong, cruel, horrific, or otherwise. It is to say, even those that raise a hand against another are nothing more than human beings.

But even at this point, my perceptions were still slightly bigoted, because I still could not look at a sex offender as human. It's ironic that I could look at a murderer and see a human being, even a sociopath, but not a pedophile. Because to touch a child in such a way....knowing how it made me suffer, I knew how it made others suffer as well, particularly those who were left alive to deal with the aftermath of that kind of suffering. Even now I want to cry for every child that goes through that.

But through a long series of events, over a number of years, my perception there even began to change. Having someone in my family who works with adolescent sex offenders, who was inspired enough by my story of suffering to put himself out there to work with these people in the hopes of keeping them from finding another victim....another me....made me stop and listen when he spoke to me.

He would tell me things (not their personal stories mind you, but general information) like alot of them had been abused themselves as smaller children. And that adolescent sex offenders had a higher chance of being rehabilitated than adult sex offenders.

At first, I would tell him..."I don't want to hear this because they are nothing but garbage", effectively distancing myself from the one place I did not want to go...into the minds of those I found abhorrent. Because being an Empath meant quite literally being in the minds of these people the closer I came to them. And the one thing I did not want to see and/or feel was the joy and pleasure they took in abusing others in such a way.

But slowly, very very slowly, I began to actually listen and more and more they became humans to me. People I could not deny despite their transgressions with lives full of suffering, violence, joy, and all of the other experiences human beings go through.

But in saying this, I must reiterate, it does not justify their actions, the suffering they brought to others, or the need for punishment. Even in seeing them as human beings, it did not mean it absolved them of their choices and actions, even if they had suffered much in their lives. And in my mind there was a distinction between the two now.

This is how my perception of evil developed. And this is where my abilities to forgive and let go were born. And it rose out of the empathy I developed as a child, when I became hypersensitive toward my abuser's needs and wants and ended with the acceptance of these kinds of people as human beings.

Recent Events

Recent Event 1
In recent events within my life, I received an email from a young man who asked me if there was hope for someone who was Empathic who had abused his gifts to the point of leaving a trail of blood in his wake. He said that most of my writing is oriented toward victims, and that is true.

And I have to say....yes, there is always hope. There is always forgiveness. Perhaps not from others who have been hurt, but at the very least forgiveness within yourself from you, so that you can let go of things that can not be changed and so you can move on...starting over again.

Despite being Empathic or not, and despite how righteous of a life we think we live, we are all guilty of hurting another to some degree at one time or another in our lives. To what degree varies from person to person, of course. But all of us are human and all of us make mistakes. Even I am guilty of this....many times over in my life time.

But I have learned something important along the journey of my life that can be quoted within a simple prayer, The Serenity Prayer. And even though I am not a Christian, this prayer holds great meaning for me.
God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;

courage to change the things I can;

and wisdom to know the difference.


Living one day at a time;

Enjoying one moment at a time;

Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;

Taking, as He did, this sinful world

as it is, not as I would have it;

Trusting that He will make all things right

if I surrender to His Will;

That I may be reasonably happy in this life

and supremely happy with Him

Forever in the next.

Amen.


--Reinhold Niebuhr

I accept the things I can not change in my life, in my past for instance ~ the pain I've wrought on others and the pain others wrought on me. And I have found the courage to change the things I can change over time, like learning to forgive and letting go of the things I've carried with me as burdens that bind me to the suffering of my past and the guilt I have worn as a mantle of my everlasting shame. And I have found within myself a wisdom I never realized I had, to know the difference between these things. And I live each day as though it were my last, full of hope, joy and feelings of blessings, despite how much I've suffered in my life....because despite all of that, this life I've been handed in such a wondrous and miraculous gift for which I treasure.

And I hope, not just the young man who emailed me, but all of you eventually find this within yourselves, as well. Because its truth, quite literally, has the power to set you free.

Recent Event 2
There was a person on a site which I frequent and occasionally work as a Chat Moderator on, Empath Community, who was causing issues within the sphere of the community. She was pointing random fingers out at people and proclaiming there was an evil presence within the community without naming names.

On the surface she had all the trademarks of what one would call a Messiah Complex or God Complex. She was judgmental, blindly saw evil everywhere, and believed she needed to protect the lost lambs (as she called them) of the Community from said evil presence within the community. But these issues were only on the surface.

But in truth, she and I are much alike in some aspects. Like me, because of my past experiences that warped my perception to see evil everywhere I turned, she found evil in places where there was none. And she believed with all of her heart that she needed to protect people from those things she deemed evil. And even though her words were saturated in judgment, I could find no fault with her intent or her personally, because her message was earnest and offered in compassionate love. I could only find fault with her approach, which as stated earlier, was full of righteous judgment which tended to lack an empathic understanding of the people she was interacting with.

So in my mind, she was where I once was within a developing perception where in right now she sees evil around every corner. But who is to say what that will transform into in the future, if she is given understanding....and empathy by those around her. Who are we to judge the progress of her own journey, despite how offensive it might be at this given moment, when we ourselves are in the process of developing our own perceptions just like her? Where is the understanding of her plight, when she is effectively forced out of a community of people who are in the process of developing just like her, despite her differences of opinion and her ways of expressing those opinions? Where is the empathy in that, I wonder? Where in lays the true evil in that situation, if there really was any on either part? I wonder.....

The Nature Of Evil

The nature of evil dwells within the perception of the human psyche. Is it the person that is truly evil or is it their choice/action/intent that is evil? Or is it both? My question to you is what brought you to the point where you decide what evil is or isn't, where you judge who and what is evil?

This is not about right or wrong, understand. This is about human perception, prejudice, and misconceptions of where to lay blame.

So the truest nature of evil, is not in the actions wrought against one another (though those are horrific in their own right). This, as ugly as it is, is human nature. Its true nature is apathy, when one person stops seeing another as a human being and can turn away from them, turn a blind eye to them as though they are subhuman, unacceptable, or garbage because of one thought, one action, or an intention to cause harm. It happens everyday as we go about our daily lives, and it happens to all of us, as those that hurt others and those that are hurt.

Evil dwells within the hearts of men and women alike, even those of Empaths, when empathy is stopped dead in its tracks, and apathy takes its place. Evil, as much as apathy is a choice. Think about it, even if you do not agree with it.

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