This is how to be a ‘good’ person. It starts with understanding what ‘evil’ really is.
Where does loneliness come from? Where does violence come from? Where does suffering come from?
There was a box, once, apparently. A box that contained all the ills of the world. And someone went and opened it.
And what was that box? I think it was this: hurt. I think maybe every misery in the world comes from a common place: hurt.
I like the quote by the French painter Francis Picabia:
“The devil follows me day and night, because he is afraid to be alone.”
Picabia would know. He suffered from depression most of his life and was hospitalised at various times for drug and alcohol abuse. He was the archetypal ‘suffering artist’.
But when he looked back at the things he did, and the hurt he caused and the all the stuff ups and mistakes he made – he could see that the devil had a hand in it all.
But his devil is not driven by evil. (I don’t really believe in a pure evil. I can’t imagine anyone is evil just for the sake of it, or evil by nature. I think that’s just a simplification we use to help us make sense of the world.)
So his devil is not driven by evil, but driven by his own loneliness. By his own hurt and suffering.
The devil then is the mischief that brings our hurt and our suffering into our actions, despite our better natures. Evil is just a misguided response to hurt.
And as the Rolling Stones sang in “Sympathy for the Devil”, what puzzles us is the nature of the devil’s game. Evil just doesn’t make sense to us. It’s baffling. It’s just not in our nature.
But we can all understand how hurt can lead us to do things that are just not really nice things to do. The betrayal in your past that makes you possessive of your spouse. The rejection as a child that makes you scheme and strategize about winning other people’s approval. The jealousy that leads you to leave a burning bag of dog poo on your ex-lovers door step.
The hurts in our history stalk us, and push us to do things that the most awesome versions of our selves just wouldn’t choose to do.
We’ve all been there.
And what I think this means is that yes, we should aspire to be good people. But ‘good’ is not just a set of norms and rules handed down to us in some book, but good includes positive responses to hurt.
And what is a positive response to hurt? Healing.
And so I think to be a good person in the world is to offer healing to wherever it is needed.
And particularly, to your own hurts, to your own sufferings, to your own devil.
Save the devil from his loneliness, from his sorrow and suffering, and he’ll cause much less havoc in your life.
Offer yourself healing, and you will naturally move in beauty.
Because that, and not evil, is our fundamental nature.