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The Nature of Evil

Updated: Mar 4


Evil is a mysterious subject for some people. Some social scientists even say it is not real, rather, “evil” is just behavior we feel does not promote the general well-being of the human race. In some circles, evil and destructive behavior is glorified and even celebrated as a protest against traditional civilization.

When we see an example of gross evil, it can be educational for us, like the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Of course, evil shows itself in other subtle ways, things we do that hurt others, behavior we just tolerate, or secret, shameful things people try to hide. But when awful things are happening, we can learn something from them.

Personally, I have been fascinated with World War II, the raw aggression, the callous destruction of human beings, the reckless uprooting of whole societies. I puzzle over how human beings were drawn into that giant swirl of inhumanity. But now we have a fresh example.

With Vladimir Putin’s decision to use massive armed force to subjugate the people of Ukraine, we see another example of raw, hateful evil on a massive scale. If it were not so real and inhumane, so true, it could be the plot of a wild science fiction movie. But it is real. Following are only a few characteristics I see in the panorama evil displays.

At the center is a man whose main operating principle is his power to control others. Around him is a circle of people who choose to follow him, even though he is a domineering liar. Together they coolly calculate and plan how to accomplish awful things. That center person has ruthlessly used his sly reptilian intelligence to remove anyone close enough to oppose him. They are jailed or killed without hesitation, often secretly.

But this person is actually afraid of others, so he hides away in a bunker-like mansion bigger than Buckingham Palace. When he appears with others lately, he is

twenty feet away at the end of a giant table in a gilded room befitting the long-ago Czars of Russia. His personal guards are honor bound to protect him from any potential enemy.

And he is alone. As a result of his precaution, he is more and more isolated from potential friends who could offer him good advice, those who might disagree with his unwise opinions. They could help him choose a better path, but he has already gotten rid of such people, and trusts his own wisdom is best.

For the public, he magnifies his power and influence by fake performances for

television distribution, showing him muscular and athletic, accomplishing masculine feats. He pretends he is a statesman, a powerful visionary leader like some Russian Czars of the past.

His system of power and influence draws others into a circle of self-destruction. Some are innocently impressed, or deceived by his wily persona. Young soldiers carry out his orders under officers who believe he is right. Perhaps in many cases, even though they know his orders are wrong they have no choice but to obey. One characteristic of evil is systematic subjugation of both friends and enemies. They lose their own humanity.

And evil is stupid. At the center of an evil system is someone like the driver of a bus loaded with ordinary citizens, who drives it off a cliff, yelling, “I’ll show you!” Evil is ignorant of the real facts of life. Putin does not understand the intense willpower of

ordinary people in Ukraine who have enjoyed personal freedom and who now resolve to resist his power, his army, even laying down their own lives. As one of them said, “We have no choice.” In other words, their freedom is too valuable to let go,

When I examine myself, as I hope every person would, I need to look for those times when I believe I know best, more than anyone else; times when I may isolate myself from others who disagree with me. I need to always value the people around me, even those who are irritating. I may need their correction. And each person is important in their own right. I need to respect their freedom, leave room for them to think their own thoughts and choose their own path.

The spiritual basis of all this is our God who gave us each freedom to choose, to make mistakes, to be stubborn, to be wrong. And he gave us the freedom to choose to accept his love, that love which cost him deep suffering, even a cross, with his love rejected. We all have a choice. That’s the good news about evil.


God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself. . . .

II Corinthians 5:19 NLT

© 2022 Stanley Hagemeyer

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