How Evil Works

There seems to be a pattern with evil that is so patient, so long-term that many people will miss just how it works. The short-range effects of evil seem to take on two patterns.  First, many people freeze when evil comes. They are numbed by the contrast between living life without that evil and now dealing with its stark contrast. Evil can so shake people to their core that they deny evil’s existence.

A case in point: I recently saw a photograph of workers at a German concentration camp of World War II. The workers were all sitting together smiling as a musician entertained them with his accordion, fun times being had by all….except by those experiencing the brunt of the evil. Even in the more recent evil of the mass shootings in Paris, many people in the theater froze when the gunmen entered. It was as if the freezing is showing us that those affected are not really sure that the horror is happening. The people at first do not react and this freezing and denial allow evil to have its way in the short-run.

After the initial denial by those who are indirectly affected (as in the accordion playing within the concentration camp example) or directly affected (as in the Paris murders), many people see and react to the evil by calling it by its name, by labeling it, understanding it, and trying to defeat it. This can take a long time, even decades. An example of this is people’s awakening to human trafficking, the using of others for the more powerful people’s own selfish ends. I still am not convinced that the world is seeing this evil in all of its fullness and ferocity. It sometimes takes great lengths of time to see and to act, yet act some people do.

Once the current evil is contained or even defeated (as in the Nazi example or the Paris shooting example), I have come to realize that the defeat is only a first-wave of the war on evil. Hitler’s Third Reich demise was not the end of that evil because the poison of that evil took up residence within those affected and within their loved ones born after the first-wave of evil was gone. Here is where the subtlety of evil is missed by so many. The evil itself, the killings, the exploitation, the hatred, may die, but the effects of these live on in those directly affected and those now affected by those who were directly affected. And this kind of evil—the secondary effects, or second-wave, of the first-wave—-are just as dangerous or even more so because they are unseen, missed. If we do not see that the evil lives on in this second-wave, then we cannot defeat it.

Yet, we must begin to see that the second-wave of evil can lead to discouragement, hopelessness, hatred, depression, substance abuse, child and spousal abuse, indifference and even hatred toward the divine (because the problem of evil cannot be fully comprehended), and the passing on to generations to come of a cynicism that robs people of inner vitality and thriving.

Beware of the second-wave of evil. See it. Know it. Defeat it through the practice of forgiving—within hearts, within families, and within communities.  Physical combat is the recourse to defeating some kinds of physically-present first-wave evils. Seeking help is another. Forgiveness-combat is the recourse to defeating the psychologically-present second-wave evils. Forgiveness-combat gives the gift to new generations of reduced skepticism, reduced hopelessness, and an increase in psychologically thriving. Forgiveness gives people their lives back.

If we are to defeat this second-wave of evil, wherever it is, then we need forgiveness education………


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Categories: New Ideas, Our Forgiveness Blog


  1. queendjh says:

    The people at first do not react and this freezing and denial allow evil to have its way in the short-run.

    Hi Dr, Enright,

    I think I understand the above statement taken from the above article, but what other response would you want to see happen in those situations?

    Also, evil seems to pass from one generation to another, and if that is not bad enough it is taught from one generation to another. It is easier to teach hate than to teach forgiveness.

    Thank you!

  2. Robert says:

    Hello, QueenDJH. Thank you for the thoughtful response. I think that people should be aware that they have a tendency to freeze and be ready for a more active reply to evil. If there is immediate danger of physical violence, as happened in Paris, then being ready to hide, or running in a zig-zag fashion to a safe exit, or attacking the shooter with more than one person should be considered. If there is more subtle abuse, then seeking justice from those who can assist would be advisable. I agree with you: learning evil is so much easier than learning to forgive if the person is not armed with strong convictions of peace. This is why we need to start implementing forgiveness education with young children and continue it through the grades. We have to get the students ready to deal with injustices. If we fail to do that, then we are not serving our children as deeply and as effectively as we should.

  3. queendjh says:

    Thank you Dr Enright. I totally agree with you about teaching our children about forgiveness. It is not often taught or acted out in the home. Thank you for the heart you have for teaching peace through forgiveness.

  4. Robert says:

    You are very welcome, QueenDJH. I wish you the best.


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