Today is a bit of a cheat I suppose. My photograph is a blank screen shot. I simply don’t want to think about evil today. I do so much of that already. My understanding of my Unitarian Universalist faith identity compels me to engage deeply, and often, with the concept of evil. Though most Unitarian Universalists don’t believe in evil in the supernatural sense, we do acknowledge immorality and depravity in the world around us. At our best, we work to bring justice to these situations. As said in Romans 12:9, “Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.”
My own understanding of Unitarian Universalism, while not motivated by scripture, echoes this sentiment: “hold fast to what is good.” This can be a tricky concept. At times it can feel overwhelming how much evil there is in the world; misuse of power, rape, child abuse, slave labor, etc. It can leave even the best of us worn out and wanting to avoid looking anywhere except into the television screen (another evil?).
Sometimes the same tool can be used for good or for evil. If I use my television to watch educational programming that is hardly evil. However, if I allow the television to numb me, distract me from reality and be a vehicle for checking out that can certainly lead to discord, to being out of alignment with my higher purpose, taking me away from my ability to hold fast to what is good then perhaps I have fallen prey to evil.
It can be difficult to look at the way evil works in our own lives. It could be the purchase of shirts made in sweatshops, supporting businesses we know treat employees unjustly, or lashing out at family members in moments of anger – perhaps even brought on by mental illness or imbalance. Whatever the reasoning, it is painful to own our contributions to the evil in our world.
Others own more than their fair share of responsibility and slide into shame. Shame is one of the greatest evils in our world. Brene Brown says the difference between guilt and shame is guilt is feeling remorse and acknowledging a wrong doing, whereas shame is feeling I am wrong. It occurs to me that Unitarian Universalists ought to become very curious about how insidious shame is in our culture. It is absolutely counter to our principle that all people have inherent worth and dignity. One cannot honor their own inherit worth and dignity while also living in shame. Then again, I don’t hear us talk much about honoring our own inherit worth so much as we talk about this principle in regards to welcoming others, being radical hospitable, and celebrating diversity.
Wanting to avoid engaging too deeply with evil today, I chose the white screen shot to represent my avoidance. It occurs to me now that it represents so much more. I think it really represents the conversations we haven’t had, the evils we don’t want to see, the blind eye we cast at our own evildoing but also to our own brilliance.