Have you ever asked yourself if there is ‘genuine evil’ in the world? Have you even seen evil you could describe as ‘genuine’? How can evil be ‘genuine’? It is such a contradiction. Malice and ill-will are counterintuitive, against our purpose as humans, the opposite of making life enjoyable for ourselves. Have our upbringing and educational efforts been so poor that they have allowed us to separate our own fulfilment from that of other people?
I’m afraid the answers to these questions do seem to be that evil exists, that it comes from a real desire to destroy rather than build. I have suffered from some of this syndrome myself.
My early, disrupted and unstable childhood was nobody’s fault. Negligence killed my mother but it wasn’t malicious. WWII wasn’t designed exclusively to separate me from my father. Lots of others had the same experiences. My reaction to these events was self-destructive. I never attempted suicide because I wasn’t brave enough but I often wished I was dead. It never occurred to me that everyone else might not have the same feelings as me.
In my early 30s, someone who ran a small business I was starting said to me “You’re a sandcastles man, aren’t you?” I didn’t understand. “You like to build things up in order to knock them down.” I was outraged, mainly because I saw that it was partly true. I had some evil in me that was destructive and the person it was directed at was me. The effects on others were sometimes devastating. Mercifully, myriads of people helped me recover.
The experience left me realising that when we hate it is ourself not others who is the subject of our passion. Turn all this round and apply the hatred as coming from someone else to us and we see immediately that we are not the victim. The person doing the hating is the real victim. Hard to accept this when we feel cheated of our good name. Difficult to reconcile our good intentions (funny how they almost always are good) with the wicked intentions (funny how they almost always are wicked) with those of the other person.
But the real world is full of calumny and detraction, some of it so destructive that it ruins reputations and careers. Whatever you are trying to do there will always be others who want to denigrate it for their own reasons. They will use legitimate and illegitimate methods to do so. It is why a politician appears to have the hide of a rhinoceros. If s/he didn’t they’d be in permanent despair. As far as I can see most of them are, most of the time, anyway.
How should we deal with the slanders, libels and appalling behaviour that threaten our peace of mind and sometimes our very survival?
First we should use that invaluable and inexpensive tool we all have available – the mirror. Mostly we use it to see how others view us superficially. A quick glance is about our hair, makeup, facial and neck jewellery. Full-length, we look to see if our clothes fit. When we pause and gaze into our own eyes for a couple of minutes we quickly see whether we are confident. How secure we are depends on the honesty with which we are dealing with our nearest and dearest and – above all – with ourselves.
We are not always honest. Coping with the day to day problems of life sometimes pushes us into a bit of self-delusion or deluding other people. Mostly it isn’t very serious. Perfection is a wonderful objective but a poor measure. Honesty, on the other hand, is a prerequisite to a comfortable personality, to self-acceptance and to a happy existence. Look again at your eyes and, through them, to your spirit. It is yours, nobody else’s. Understand it.
Being self-aware and confident is not going to remove the slings and arrows others throw at you. But it will let you decide how much they are your problem and how much other people’s. Often your motives are pure as the driven snow (of course) but your presentation of them may be confusing to those you would influence. Why is that? Do you appear arrogant or patronising? Do you transmit messages or help others understand them? Do you justify your actions, when trying to comprehend other people’s would be more helpful?
Whatever your answer, you do not have to associate guilt with it. You may indeed be guilty of something but endless contemplation of it won’t help you. Understanding yourself will. You can do that in many ways. The best is to have a mentor and write a PASDAQ™ *.
Life is a process of acquisition. The intelligent realise that what we must acquire are not possessions but knowledge, achievement, understanding, wisdom. As we gain these bricks of comprehension we build our own philosophy. Since little is new, it will incorporate some of the philosophies of those who have gone before. But it will, if it is to work, be our own, tailored to our unique personality, trimmed to work for us. The paradox is that we only achieve it when we design and apply our philosophy for the benefit of others.
Dancing was one of the first Queen Elizabeth’s favourite occupations. One day, during a particularly vigorous polka, the garter that held up her stockings slipped to the floor. She noticed some of her courtiers giggling and tittering behind the back of their hands. She stopped the music and shouted Honi soit qui mal y pense (Evil be to him who evil thinks).
So powerful were her words that they became the motto of the Premier Order of Knighthood of Britain. To be a Knight of the Garter is to be at the top of British Society.
There is something especially stirring about the fact that as the reign of the second Queen Elizabeth achieves it’s amazing 66th year the women of the world are collectively shouting Honi soit qui mal y pense. The Latin may not be universally understood today. The meaning is becoming recognised again as the foundation of civilised behaviour.
We can all dismiss tittle-tattle and bad behaviour with Honi soit qui mal y pense.
History is once again on our side.
*PASDAQ™ is a comprehensive look at who you are and what your purpose is. Over 8,200 people have done it, all with success. To learn more ask firstname.lastname@example.org.