"Do now, do now, what you will wish to have done when your moment comes to die." [St. Angela Merici]

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The Subtlety of Good and Evil

By Micky Wolf

There is a lot about the spiritual and supernatural elements which share our ‘space’ that is mystery. It is understandable we may be reluctant to acknowledge the presence of dark spirits associated with sinfulness. However, learning to identify the characteristics of both good and evil is important as “things are not always as they seem to be”. Why? Sacred Scripture is pretty clear both exist and in the process, provides some helpful specifics about how to deal with this aspect of the spiritual life. [Emphasis added]

Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground.
[Psalm 143:10]

He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith,
and a great number of people were brought to the Lord.
[Acts 11:24]

Crowds gathered also from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and
those tormented by evil spirits, and all of them were healed.
[Acts 5:16]

A detailed explanation of spirits is beyond the intent of this writing, yet as Christians we are well-advised to have a basic understanding of how their presence may affect our daily life. Believing they have any specific form apart from our human body is much less important than accepting the reality good and evil influences exist and can affect our thoughts, feelings and emotions with regard to the morality of our choices and actions. 

Characteristics of good spirits… 
  • A good spirit is one that is rooted and grounded in Love—God is Love.
  • In the presence of Love, a person senses calm, serenity and compassion. While storms of various descriptions may rage about, the Spirit of God exudes the ‘peace that surpasses all understanding’.  This kind of peacefulness cannot be handed from one person to another. At the same time, in cooperating with God’s grace, you and I can choose to receive and cultivate peace within our hearts.
  • In the presence of the good spirit of Love, a person can be strengthened and protected from evil influences with a ‘hedge of protection’. Our choice to humbly acknowledge and submit to God allows Him to serve as our shield and protection from that which might desire to harm us.
Characteristics of evil spirits…
  • An evil spirit is one that is rooted and grounded in Satan, or, if you prefer, the enemy of our human nature. Either way, the modus operandi is to tempt us to turn away from or despise anything that is of God and Love. Once tempted, we may or may not choose to sin.
  • In the presence of evil, one senses confusion, discord, and self-centeredness. While storms of various descriptions may rage about, spirits of evil exude darkness, negativity, perversions of the most egregious—or subtly deceptive—nature.
  • In the presence of the evil spirits of Satan, one is harassed and agitated in all manner of thoughts, feelings and emotions. Our choice to follow after evil when it appears under a guise of goodness will eventually carry us into darker and darker places of discontent and sinfulness.
It would be easy enough to say that anything evil is simply the opposite of anything good. On one level this is true. However, it is the very nature of Satan to ‘come as an Angel of light’ [2 Corinthians 11:14]. We are wise to learn the ways a dark spirit many manifest, not out of fear, but in order to shut and bolt the door on those things which are intended to lead us away from God and Love.

Examining “why” is key…

Prayer, confession, penance, acts of mercy and charity—all are excellent choices to live and walk with a Spirit of Love, that we may refute the influences of evil. Yet if we make any single choice on a regular basis with regard to responding to the good spirits rather than the evil ones, we will be people who take the time to cooperate with God’s grace as He searches our hearts to reveal the ‘why’ of our attitudes, behaviors and actions.

Apart from taking the time to examine what moves us to make the choices we do, we are vulnerable to the wiles of evil spirits? Why?—because when we get honest and real with self, we allow God to shine His Light of Love on our heart intentions. 
  • One of the first things we face in a sincere process of examination is fear—fear of what we may discover about self.  While healthy fear of the Lord is good, being afraid of what God might show us about the presence of evil or darkness may be enough to stop us in our tracks, which is exactly what the spirits of darkness hope will happen. Gone unrecognized, evil harasses us, draining the vitality from living, or feeding any shame, condemnation or false-pride we have set up as defense mechanisms.
  • Good guilt is very different from the darkness that accompanies shame and condemnation. When the good Holy Spirit shows us our choices are rooted in complicity with evil, we experience the pain of sincere conviction that brings about healing and restoration, resulting in deep peace. When a dark spirit is present, our thoughts and feelings will be as heavy weights, dragging us into self-pity and self-centeredness. False-pride stirs, tempting us into denial. Or we may choose to reason, rationalize and justify our attitudes, behaviors and actions.      
Evil spirits full-well recognize our reluctance to deal with the “why” of our actions, consequently, temptation to sin is more subtle. 

Examples of good and evil influences:

Good spirit influence…

I choose to take a bag of groceries to my out-of-work neighbor. Why? I have more than I need and I know they have several mouths to feed.

Evil spirit influence…

In choosing to take groceries to my neighbor, I am more concerned with how my actions will make me “look good to others”. Note: These feelings in and of themselves are not evil—it is when we make our need to experience them the priority and purpose.

Good spirit influence…

I choose to fill my calendar with a multitude of spiritual and/or Good Samaritan activities. Why? I have the time, energy and resources to be available to others.

Evil spirit influence…

I fill my calendar with spiritual activities as way to avoid some kind of personal responsibility. This kind of temptation leads us to believe being busy is okay because it involves God. Note: Being busy is not evil or sinful—it is choosing these things because they seem more fulfilling or enjoyable than those within our God-ordered commitments to spouse, family and related areas of service. 

The courage to call it what it is…

Cooperating with God as He searches our hearts in Love is one of the best ways we can learn to discern what is at the root of our choices. Whether we identify what influences our thoughts, feelings and emotions as the presence of good or evil spirits, aspects of original sin, or proclivities of our wounded nature, it is vitally important we choose to be courageous in bringing them into the Light. For when we make that choice, nothing about who we are in spirit, mind, body and emotions can be used of Satan to persuade us to move away from being all that God has created us to be.

Am I comfortable/uncomfortable in the awareness Scripture speaks of evil spirits? Why?

Does fear play a part in my openness to God searching my heart? 

How do I feel about any complicity with sin and evil? Shame? Condemnation?

How do I feel about good guilt—conviction that moves me to authentic confession and repentance?


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