The Devil Is in the Reaction
One of my beloved pastors posted an article about Nike suing a rapper or honestly I don't know who or what he is. I actually had to Google the name because I never heard of him. Apparently he and a marketing company are trying to market Nike sneakers that promote Satanism.
My pastor expressed his frustration, which is understandable. Most of the reactions to his posts were understandable as well. Many clarified the story--that Nike was suing this rapper and the marketing company for misappropriating the Nike name and its shoes.
Note--it was a marketing scheme to promote a rapper's album. The marketers and the rapper got exactly what they wanted--press coverage, public outrage, and most importantly, temporary relevance.
What was interesting is the spin of the commenters. You could hear all the conservative propaganda echoing their comments. They blamed the Democrats, specifically Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden because they were "so-called" Catholics.
What on earth does a marketing scheme have to do with the Democrats? Aren't the Republicans all about free enterprise and big business? It also should be noted that my pastor was not a fan of Donald Trump.
It's so easy to paint "the other" as evil, isn't it? That gives us permission to hate them. We continue to push away those who don't fit into our little box of narrowed attitudes until our group has whittled away to one conformist group who never dares to step outside the box. Then the group can never learn and grow because it refuses to see things from different perspectives.
I think that's where "the devil" is. Evil seeks separation, whereas God seeks unity. Evil is the thorns that seek to choke the seeds of life.
Evil emerges from our careless reactions. It's up to us to tame our reactions with the snuffer of discernment. Let me give you an example.
Yesterday a car behind me sped into the left turn lane. No, it didn't intend to turn. It whipped around me and continued to speed up the street. Immediately my blood boiled, sending a whole train of thoughts into my head.
Where are you going that's so much more important than where everyone else is going? Why do you feel entitled to put everyone else's life at risk so you can feed your need for adrenaline? I hope the cops give you a ticket. Ha-ha-ha, you didn't even get anywhere because the next light was red, asshole.
Even when I sat behind him at the next light, I desperately wanted to hand him a gesture that would express my discontent. But I didn't. My spirit of discernment poured cold water over my reaction.
Had I been previously irritated by a student, I might have acted differently. When our afflictive emotions build up, they can easily set fire to things around us. It might not be one thing, but several episodes in our life can provide kindling for our destructive words and actions.
When people ask, "Why do people do evil things?" The easy answer is "It's the devil." My answer is, "People lack discernment." Our egos develop early in life, and how we build relationships in our lives will factor into our reactions through our lives. This "bottom up" automatic thinking isn't innate. It's learned.
When you look at the various mass shootings in the past several years, they all involve a male shooter. In some cases, the man had suffered some sort of childhood trauma that was never truly healed. In other cases, the man had been led to believe a different reality than what exists. Whatever the case, the person had several episodes piled into his head that factored into his desire to hurt people. Once another episode reached the boiling point, violence occurred.
These people listened to the messages that say that violence is justified. Their selective attention looked for these messages to confirm what they already believe.
This is how "evil" exists. It is all a product of our reactions and impulses. It's not that we need to bind our reactions and impulses. Instead, we need to investigate them with the spirit of discernment.
This involves some self-control, which is different from self-restraint. This is "top-down" thinking, or "System 2" as Daniel Kahneman calls it. This takes some effort, which we don't like to do. It's much easier to just behave the way we want, cater to our desires and impulses, in the name of "freedom."
However, this "freedom" keeps us bound because we're really not choosing. We're only responding to our patterned conditioning. Our pride convinces us it's our "choice," but it's mostly our disordered attachments suppressing us. We remain blind to what other choices are out there because we're only reacting from our habits and patterns.
How do we eradicate evil? It starts with us. We have to engage our spirit of discernment and ask, "What is the most appropriate response in this moment? Is this response contributing to unity or my own benefit? Does this build a better, more compassionate world?"