Why is change perceived as negative when it is suggested by someone else?
We all probably have heard the phrase, “Never change for anyone” a couple of times in our lives. But why is that so? Why shouldn’t we change for other people? Should we never change for other people or only in certain occasions and for certain people?
an INTRINSICALLY authentic self
“Never change for anyone”, implies that we have an authentic self, that should stay authentic and not be altered by outer forces and influences. How was this authentic self created?
This authentic self is not as “authentic” as we think it is. From the day we are born, we are influenced and shaped in ways we cannot consciously remember. Our close environment, meaning, our parents, our grandparents, and our siblings – the people we spend most of our early time with – subconsciously shaped our personality and interests not only short but also long term. A different environment would have created a different human being. Even the same environment with the same people but in a different time would have created a different human being.
We are not as authentic as we think we are, so changing should not be something we should not do; even if it happens due to the criticism of someone else. Criticism is something I have talked about in an earlier blogpost. There should be certain criteria that we should take into consideration when evaluating the proposition for change.
Criteria for change
First of all we should evaluate the person proposing the change. What is our relationship with them? How long do we know them? Do they have our own good in mind when proposing change, or do they have their own interest in mind because they would benefit from the change?
Oftentimes, it is difficult to evaluate the other person and our relationship with them because we cannot enter their minds. We cannot be entirely sure of what the person is thinking and what its intentions are. That makes it difficult for us to decide whether or not to take the proposition seriously. Especially if we talk about a change in personality or a specific personality trait. When somebody tells us they do not like an aspect of our personality or behavior we tend to react negatively because we perceive it as an attack on our “authentic” self. Our personality is the essence of our being. Therefore, when such a proposition occurs we REALLY should spend time thinking about our relationship and the extent of the interdependence we have with this person.
Parents, siblings, and relatives of any kind seem to be people we more often than not can trust to have our own good in mind when proposing a change. Nevertheless, we cannot just blindly follow their advice without evaluating the change and its consequences. Because we do not know the emotional state they were in when they suggested the change. At this time, they may not even believe in it anymore. Therefore their judgement should be assessed. Do they even have success in what they are proposing? Should one take relationship advice from a relative that does not have a long and successful relationship? Should one take health and fitness advice from a relative who does not look healthy him-/herself or take advice on happiness and satisfaction in life from a person who does not look happy and satisfied him-/herself?
The advice may be productive and eventually have positive consequences. Nonetheless, it needs to be thoroughly analyzed before being implemented. Under those circumstances, it should not as much matter where the advice is coming from, but instead the advice for change itself should be evaluated.
Change does not equal losing freedom
Markus Aurelius says it best, “Remember that to change course or accept correction leaves you just as free as you were. The action is your own; driven by your own impulse and judgement, indeed your own intelligence.”
Many times, when the proposition or the thought for change comes from our own selves, we are proud of having figured out something that will improve our lives. When someone else gives us advice we tend to react negatively out of arrogance as well as pride.
A proposition and the action are two different things, though, because somebody making a proposition for change does not immediately mean that we are going or we should act on it. The action itself happens because we have decided to implement the suggested measures. It is purely our decision to act. Therefore, as already mentioned, merely the advice itself should be analyzed no matter where it comes from. We should always act as reasonable human beings and not let our inferior emotions be the masters of our mind.
Before I started creating this Blog some – not so motivational – questions crossed my mind. “Why should people read my blog? There are so many writers out there, why should people be interested in what I have to say?” Those are legitimate questions and the process of thinking about and answering them is a helpful process.
Right before any big project doubts cross our minds. We start comparing ourselves to other people doing our craft, writers in my case. This process oftentimes demoralizes us. There have been great people doing what we are trying to do, very successfully. Should kids stop dreaming of being great, or the best footballers one day just because of the existence of Messi and Ronaldo? Messi and Ronaldo reached their status even though before them great players created magic with the ball. They were probably inspired by them, otherwise they would have never reached the level they have reached and they have not even gotten to the end of their careers yet. Both have the opportunity of becoming even greater by winning the coming World Cup. But enough of football and back to the actual topic of the blogpost.
doubt as a mechanism of stagnation
Every time we doubt ourselves to any degree we are slowing down the process of improvement. Doubt is a waste of time that we could be using concentrating on improving and learning. Doubt, at the end of the day, is born by the feeling of not being good enough, not having the necessary skills to successfully execute the project.
Doubt is not creative but destructive. It does not achieve anything more than failure or making the activity unpleasant. That is why thorough examination and research is important before making the decision to spend time on a serious project. Starting with doubt means not being convinced of the project’s potential. Then why start at all?
Accumulated knowledge and wisdom
Accumulated knowledge and wisdom bring progress. Our society is a product of all previous societies. Our generation is a product of all previous generations. We create the future by using the tools and findings of previous generations and some of the prior knowledge and wisdom from the past do not apply to the time we are living in.
Great writers of our generation are the product of previous writers. They have read the literature and theory that helped them become great writers. Nobody is self-made. The possibility for greatness and success is out there. If we find it or not depends on our willingness to learn, adapt and create.
If the existence of great writers in the past makes our desire to be great writers useless then we would have never had great writers after the first great writers some thousands of years ago.
The opposite is true. Great writers of the past created great writers in the present, and great writers of the present will create great writers in the future. This applies to all occupations. There would have been no Plato without Socrates – there would have been no Aristoteles without Plato and Socrates, and there would have been no Alexander the Great without Aristoteles, Plato and Socrates… at least not as great as he truly was.
present over past
Our current generation has the advantage over previous generations. We have more sources and resources to use for our occupations and sciences. Economists in the seventeenth century did not have a John Stuart Mill, a Karl Marx, a Vilfredo Pareto or a John Maynard Keynes. Philosophers of the fifteenth century did not have a Voltaire, a Descartes, a Rousseau or a Nietzsche. We have all of them, but we do not have the big thinkers of the future. That is why coming generations will have an advantage over us, just as we have an advantage over previous generations.
Different times, different problems, different solutions
Furthermore, our generation has to go through different struggles and problems then all the previous generations. The modern time is a time of dynamic changes and people are oftentimes overwhelmed by those changes. As a writer I have to deal with different issues and aspects of the human nature and mind.
Especially the youth carries a heavy burden. Great writers, mainly in fiction writing, have the obligation to deal with contemporary issues, problems, and questions. Past thinkers, idealists and writers will give present thinkers, idealists and writers the theoretical and conceptual basis to help the current generation go through their struggles. In addition, they will add to the theories and concepts of the past to help future generations go through their struggles. We cannot solve their problems, because solving a problem is only possible while being present when this given problem exists. The least we can do, though, is thinking about future generations and not giving them problems that we could have prevented.
There is always potential for success and greatness. Past success and greatness does not mean that there is no room for present success and greatness. That applies to all fields, sciences and occupations. Different times bring with them different and new types of problems. Those problems can only be solved by contemporary thinkers and experts.
The potential for success and greatness is even higher in modern times due to so many centuries of previous thinkers that we can study and analyze. Technology makes it easy for us to acquire all knowledge that we need for our projects. We should use this opportunity and create something beautiful.
This is a long quote, but it is important for me to present to the reader this brilliant passage, written by Viktor E. Frankl in his book “Man’s Search for Meaning”. I recommend every man – and of course woman, but particularly man – to read this book.
As a Holocaust survivor, Viktor Frankl witnessed the brutalities of the Nazi regime in the Second World War and spent time in the concentration camp in Auschwitz. His psychological insides are based on his observations of the inmates, their life, their experiences, their attitudes towards their fate as victims of the most brutal war humanity has ever witnessed. How can you continue living your life like this, when a group of people sees you as inferior to them and uses you only for work, just like humanity has used animals throughout all of history? What gives your life the necessary amount of meaning to not just commit suicide?
what is meaning and its purpose?
Meaning could be defined as the things, people or ideas that we live for. “Meaning” are the reasons we live and create for. The reasons that motivate us to leave our bed every morning, even if we do not really feel like it. Meaning can be an idea, like God or a materialistic thing like a car, or a book collection or it can be a person like someone’s family, wife, husband, son or daughter or a romantic relationship. Our “meaning” changes throughout our lifetime. What we consider important today will probably be replaced in some years by something else. Meaning, like all other things in life, is temporary. Even something like our belief in God can change. I live through times when I stopped believing and times I started believing again. In the moments of faith I just could not imagine a future without faith… but it came. In moments of doubt, I could not imagine a return to faith and yet here I am. Meaning changes, and that is something that we should be conscious about in order to not just go through life searching for some everlasting meaning that will keep us content until we die.
the development of meaning
Meaning Outside of the Individual
It seems like a change occurred in the minds of people throughout history. In earlier centuries, humans seemed to find meaning outside of the individual, outside of themselves. Firstly, people needed to work every day because their life depended on it. Nowadays, especially in more industrialized countries, we do not witness the fight for everyday survival like people did a hundred, two and more hundred years ago, since the development of the first human communities. Survival makes one put meaning into the community, something outside of the individual, because without the community one could not survive. The importance of family also falls into this category, because the roots of the institution begin with the establishment of the first communities. One can find meaning in the maintenance of a family and the survival of the partner and the children; things outside of the individual.
Meaning, in older times, could also be found in belief and religion. The meaning of life itself is the entrance into paradise and, hopefully, not hell. God himself is an idea, an entity who one can rely on in the most difficult of times. An idea outside of the individual, outside of oneself.
Some more ideas that were important to people, in the past more than in the present, are national identity, tradition and culture, ethnicity and race. Those ideas seem to go through a restoration in some European countries due to the cultural war that is taking place for the last decade, especially in the west. This cultural war does not seem to be ending any time soon. The return to nationalist ideologies will probably become stronger in the decade to come. Those nationalist ideas again, are something outside of the individual, outside of one’s self. Even though one is defining himself by his supposed heritage and genetic make up that is in himself, those ideas are represented in the outer world. In the music, the art, the architecture, the language, the literature, the physiognomy of the people that belong to the same ethnicity. Even religion and God can be put into this category. Furthermore, family can be put into this category because of the preservation of the nation but also the preservation of one’s name. The parents, more precisely the father, want to give their last name to a son who will then continue the name’s history. Those were motivations outside of the individual.
The ways in which human beings of older generations found meaning in things outside of the individual, outside of themselves is very visible here. How does that look like now – in our modern, capitalist, commercialized societies?
Meaning Inside of the Individual
In our modern, materialist, capitalist, commercialized societies institutions like community, family, social hierarchy, faith and religion, God himself, marriage and birth have all lost their earlier high value.
The devaluation of those institutions has its routs in the fight for freedom of marginalized social groups that were discriminated and disadvantaged by those same institutions. Patriarchy and social hierarchy lost its value when women, and some men, started fighting for women’s rights. With the rise of big corporations after the capitalist revolution women were needed as workers for the system and they were of big advantage for states because more workers means more taxes. Self-actualization, in form of a successful career, is now more important for many women than finding their meaning outside of their selves by creating and serving a family and their husband. Meaning inside of the individual with the help of personal achievements and materialistic purchases. Achievements not to please someone else, but primarily one’s self.
The devaluation of God and Religion, as an institution that has power over our actions also came in the name of personal, individual freedom. “I will not let some God, whose existence is not even proven, dictate how I should live my life.” Many people in our time lose their faith in God. The pseudo-intellectual narcissism and arrogance of our time make it easy for an individual to give up their self-control and humbleness. Becoming a victim to the pleasures of the flesh is seen as a revolution against the tyranny of God. I have been a victim of that myself, until I realized that I was acting just like the biggest revolutionary in the history of the universe, Satan himself. For an atheist all those things will sound absurd. Just skip this part and take with you the main argument of the paragraph, namely, that meaning has left the world outside of one’s self and entered the sphere of the individual in our modern times.
The church has mistreated many marginalized groups, especially women and homosexual people. The church has lost much of its power when the governance of a nation went from the church to the state. The separation of church and state in most countries of the west in the name of individual freedom has opened opportunities of self-actualization to marginalized groups. Those groups will live out their individual freedoms as excessively as they can. This is the an understandable reaction to the hundreds of years of persecution and discrimination.
The fall of those institutions in the name of individual freedom and self-actualization has made the search for meaning more difficult for human beings. We are limited in our capabilities which means that we will fail often. If we base the meaning of our lives on personal success and self-actualization we will spend a lot of time trying to acquire something that will give us this meaning. More often than not, we will fail. That is why balance is important.
the golden mean
The golden mean, or the golden middle way, is the balance between meaning outside and meaning inside of the individual. Our personal freedoms and self-actualization are important drivers for a happy life. Nevertheless, at the end of the day if we only think about our individual happiness and success and strive everyday to achieve this happiness and success we will run into a thick wall of Nihilism because at the end of the day those are the things that have the least meaning. Happiness is temporary. Not being happy is the goal, but being content; having no regrets when we go to bed in the evening. Finding a meaning of life that exists outside of ourselves, will make us feel content with life. Community, family, friendship, religion, God, culture, tradition. Those institutions will stay with us forever. The things and people that they consist of will probably change throughout the course of our lives but we can refill them. There is never a lack of people worthy of being part of our community, family and circle of friends.
Many times conclusions are not concluding anything, especially when writing about an ambiguous topic like the meaning of life. I will have to conclude with one sentence of Viktor E. Frankl’s quote.
Maybe there is no meaning in life. Maybe the creation of the universe, and therefore the creation of human beings, was a big coincidence. We are thrown into this world and we will leave this world after some (hopefully many) decades. Or maybe life has a meaning. Somebody created the universe and human beings with a specific purpose in mind. This purpose we will probably never get to discover during our lifetime on this planet. We can philosophize about the meaning of life until we grow long white beards (males) and long white hair (females). We will not come to a conclusion. The meaning of life is what everybody defines individually. At the end of the day, coming back to Viktor E. Frankl, we have to ask ourselves what we can and cannot control in life. Then take what we can control and start creating the best out of it.
If we still try to define a meaning for our lives, let it be something higher than the mere individual. We, ourselves, are not the pinnacle of creation. Only in combination with something outside of the individual can meaning have value. What are we doing this for?
Our parents are the first people we interact with in life. They influenced our conscious and unconscious mind, knowingly or unknowingly.
The apple does not fall far from the tree.
As we grow older we tend to think that we are living our independent lives without any outer influence on our personality, character, habits and way of thinking. This is far from the truth. Of course we are making our own decisions and our lives look different than those of our parents, but our decisions and the course of our life has been strongly shaped by imitating the actions and habits of our parents. The possibility that overweight parents will have overweight children is high. The possibility that parents who smoke or drink will have children who smoke or drink is high. This is why it is important to learn from the mistakes of our parents and try to be different in the bad and similar in the good.
I was walking some days ago and thought about my personal fitness. I haven’t really been active in the last couple of years. Luckily, I have been working out with my father from a very young age and my overall fitness looks good, even when I am not doing much physical training. I am 27 years old and when my father was 27 years old he had been in much better shape than I am currently in. My father worked out everyday. He was known for his strength and physical endurance. Later in life, after he married my mother and created four children, he let himself go. He got overweight and did not workout for many years. He was not the man he used to be. He started having physical issues because of his lack of movement. I am standing here now, at 27 years old, lazier and weaker than my father at 27. If gaining weight and becoming lazy could happen to my father, then worse things can happen to me if I do not take care of my physical health and strength. That is why I have to learn from my father’s mistake. Try to find at least half an hour everyday for the minimum amount of moving my body, even if it means taking a walk.
This, of course, is only one of many examples in which parents can be fallible. Looking at the mistakes of our parents is beneficial because we witness the consequences of their actions first-hand. Later in life we will meet other people and observe their mistakes and the consequences that will arise, but it may be too late for us to gain wisdom because we may have already been through the same problems. The problems our parents face are mostly problems that arise when people have become comfortable with their lives and they let themselves go. The notion that they have achieved whatever there was to achieve, especially after creating a family… a notion which they regret eventually.
What needs to be considered is that oftentimes, finding out the mistake can be very difficult. We see the negative consequences but where did they come from? Analyzing the negative consequences and following them back to their causes is laborious, but once achieved, it will open up a path for destroying generational trauma. Mistakes that are repeated from generation to generation. Those mistakes are obstacles to the success of many people who fall victims to the bad habits and mistakes of their parents.
Parents are our first role models. We need to learn from their mistakes in order to become better versions from generation to generation. When we have our own family, we should talk to our children about our own bad habits and mistakes. Teach them to be better and not repeat them. They will be thankful.
We all probably have heard of this quote at least once during our life on this earth. I never had the urge to analyze it because I mostly agreed with it. During a YouTube podcast someone mentioned it again and all the guests nodded their heads in agreement. In my head I thought of the scenario of being a guest on a podcast and the host asking me, “What is your opinion on this quote? Do you agree?”
What would I have answered? I never really thought about this quote deep enough to have an intellectual opinion about it. My answer would probably look like this, “Yes I agree a hundred percent. You know, we live in easy times and all humans are weak. The older generations are strong because they had to work hard.” This answer is not a sophisticated one. I would be disappointed of myself talking like this. While this scenario kept playing in my head I thought about the quote and the problems it carries with it. I want to further elaborate the problems I found.
Problems of the original quote
It may be that the author further explained the quote in the book. I want to analyze the quote on its own because this is how people find it on all kinds of media. The context is hardly mentioned.
Symptoms and Causes
One of the problems I have with the quote is that “weak” and “strong” are symptoms and not causes. The causes are not mentioned. What makes people strong in hard times and what makes them weak in good times? When we are talking about hard times, we are talking about times of discomfort, of involuntary activeness. This discomfort, this activeness, makes people strong and resilient, not only physically because of physical labor but also mentally because it is hard to know that you have to go to work everyday because you will not get paid. In hard times it is more difficult to just take one day off and the shifts are longer than in good times. With activeness comes knowledge, wisdom and the urge to create a better future for ones children. In hard times people cannot afford to just relax for hours, watch movies or shows, scroll on social media etc. The “strong” in the quote, therefore, could be replaced by “busy” or “active”.
“Weak” is also problematic because it does not mention the causes of being weak. I will not go deeper into the aspects within people can be weak – mentally, physically, educationally, morally, intellectually, etc. What makes people weak? The opposite of what makes people strong, laziness and inactivity. “I do not have to do it, so I will not.”This inactivity is mostly voluntary, which I will further amplify later on. Good times make people not feel the urgency of having to act every day and learn skills. I do not have to work physically or hunt so I do not need to work out and be in shape. The mental toughness is also in decline for the same reasons. Comfortability is the catalyst of inactivity. Inactivity is the catalyst of weakness, whether physical, mental or technical. Therefore, I would replace the term “weak” in the quote with the term “inactive” or “lazy” and the term “good” with “comfortable”.
Determinative Character of the Quote
Apart from the “cause and effect” problem, another problem is the determinative character of the quote. “Good times create weak men”, therefore, “I live in good times, I am a weak man”. Who decides what a good time and what a hard time is? If the economy of a nation goes well, the majority of its citizens live financially stable and peacefully, and they can fulfill their needs and entertain themselves in multiple ways, we could say that those are good times. Those good times would create weak men. The individual hardship of life is kept out of the equation. Someone could live in a comfortable time but be on the “poor” side of the economical spectrum. His or her life would be filled with different hardships than the comfortable life of people who are positioned on more privileged side of the spectrum. Somebody who is rich could be having health issues and go through a tough life full of pain and medication. The personal hardships of every individual define the content of their character and their toughness. In general, it could be true that good, comfortable times create inactive men or women. Taking personal hardships into consideration destroys the determinative character of the quote, which brings me to the solution and conclusion of my analysis.
The solution to the first problem of “cause and effect” was the replacement of the terms in the quote. “Strong” was replaced by “active” and “weak” replaced by “inactive”. Furthermore, I want to replace the term “good” with the word “comfortable”. Comfortability is the cause for inactivity and inactivity the cause for weakness. I will now present the lengthened quote with the replaced terms.
The solution to the second problem of the “determinative character” of the quote is in close relation to hardship. In hard times people had to go through involuntary hardship that made them strong and resilient. In comfortable times it is up to us personally to create our own hardships – “voluntary hardships”. The creation of a personal daily routine and the obedience of productive daily habits will add to the naturally occurring hardships of life that are present even in generally comfortable times.
As already mentioned, I interpreted the quote outside of its context in the book. This is how we find it in all kinds of social media. It has been weaponized by different ideological parties as a critique of society and governments. That makes it even more important to interpret, analyze and explain it. Terms like “weak” and “strong” need to be further explained. Finding the causes of those symptoms is essential in the later stage of finding solutions to destroy the causes of weakness and establish the individual and social basis for strength. One can be a strong man or a strong woman even in supposedly good, comfortable times, and vice versa a weak man or a weak woman in hard, uncomfortable times. It is up to the individual, even if it oftentimes does not seem like that.
This quote is from a book written by Nick Hornby and called “About a Boy”. The main character, Will, started dating a woman that was older than him. She had a daughter and always complained about her ex husband and father of the girl, Simon. This is how this quote came to life, which is one of the best I have ever heard, because it tells a lot about our identity as human beings and how we are perceived by others.
Questions that arise
Are our identity and personality perceived by others as they really are, or just in comparison to the identities and personalities of other people?
Does any other person, apart from ourselves, judge us based on the true qualities of our personality and expertise?
Those questions are difficult to answer.
The true value of our qualities
Let’s say I am hired as a manager in a company and I assume that this company had a manager, I will call him Greg, who had to leave his position for some kind of reason. I have my qualities which are set and cannot be changed. Now what is important, is the perceptions that the other employees and stakeholders had on the work of Greg. These perceptions will determine how I will be going to be perceived and the amount of my success as a manager. If Greg had good qualities and the rest of the company was happy with him then I would have to do a very good job to at least be perceived as acceptable for the position. In contrast, if Greg had been a bad manager and nobody had been happy with him then even a mediocre job by me as a manager could be able to be perceived as above average. Nevertheless, our qualities, in their essence, are the same in both cases. Their true value, though, is determined by how others perceive our qualities based on the previous experiences they made.
This also applies to romantic and sexual relationships. We are often only the products of the predecessor’s work in the role we are currently playing. The expectations our partner has, will be influenced by the experiences made with his or her previous partners. Knowingly or unknowingly. We could be the most loving and affectionate girlfriend or boyfriend, it won’t mean much if our partner cannot value and appreciate (or does not need) those qualities. We will not be a good partner. BUT: With the same qualities we could be the best possible partner for another person. This person’s previous experiences have shaped them into fitting (partly or perfeclty) into our quality-frame.
The woman Will was dating in the novel, only appreciated Will because he was not Simon. She may have not even noticed it herself. Will definitely did not notice it, otherwise he would not have been surprised when she left him to get back to her ex husband, Simon. Will could have interpreted this event in two ways.
He can blame himself for the breakup. He can take it personally, making him think that he is not good enough to please a woman emotionally or sexually.
OR, and that would be the reasonable thing to do, he can analyze the event and understand that the woman he was dating was a product of her past experiences and that her actions did not have anything to do with him. She would have done the same to any other man in this specific time. She was just trying to distract herself from the ex husband that probably disappointed her in some kind of way. Was what she did ok? No. But take it personally? HELL NO.
Nobody can see us as we truly are
Nobody can see us as we truly are. I thought it necessary to repeat that. That is why we should never take it personally if someone misunderstands us. Getting rejected hurts, being misunderstood hurts. Many times people, even those closest to us, claim to know us. They will falsely apply characteristics on us. In many cases they are only mirroring their own personal characteristics because they want to feel better about themselves. “I am not the only one with this specific flaw“, they are thinking. This is why we should never take other people’s perceptions and actions personally. Those perceptions and actions are not the result of our actions or content of our character and personality, but the result of previous experiences made by the individual characters in this specific event. This is also why even good gestures should not be taken too personally. Being thankful and being disappointed to a degree are necessary and natural reactions to gestures made by other people. But we should never exaggerate the influence those gestures have on our mental state by taking them too personally.
Furthermore, in our lives we have more than one identity. We are sons, daughters, husbands, wives, brothers, sisters, managers, waitresses, nurses, doctors, genitors. The interactions we have during all those identities are not the same. As a brother, I could be perceived as caring and patient but as a doctor as strict and cruel. Even as a brother, I am perceived differently by the one sibling than by the other. They are both making different experiences with different people and this shapes their individual lens with which they perceive and judge people. Different standards will have different outcomes.
Not taking things too personally is not easy. When someone does something positive to us we feel loved and appreciated. If we exaggerate those feelings we might get disappointed by this person in the future. The same is true if someone does something negative to us and we feel disappointed, sad and hurt. If we exaggerate those feelings we may act in a specific way that will result into not being able to ask this person for help, if we need it someday. We will regret our behavior in both instances.
Understanding that the actions and words of other people are not the products of the content of our character or personality but the products of their personal previous experiences with other people, will make us the pilots of our feelings. Only we know who we truly are. We may not be Simon, and we may be loved more for not being Simon than for being ourselves. That is ok, as long as we know ourselves and are satisfied with the way we are and act.
This quote is from Roméo Dallaire’s book, “Shake Hands with the Devil – The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda”. Dallaire was the commander of a peacekeeping group during the military and humanitarian crisis in Rwanda in the 1990s. He experienced the cruelties, the voilence, the deaths, the hunger, the child-soldiers, and all the evil things this world has to offer. He narrates his experiences in detail. All his senses were part of that experience: touch, sight, hearing, smell, and taste. It certainly can be imagined how awful the events he lived were, when after twenty years he can still remember the smell of rotten bodies.
Evil in the context of Religion
Dallaire defined the cruelties he experienced in Rwanda as “the existence of the Devil”. He came to the logical conclusion: if the Devil exists, then God also exists, because these two are inseparable. Nevertheless, he does not give his opinion on WHY evil is necessary. Why has God created a world full of evil and a species that is capable of commiting those unimaginable atrocities?
One Explanation of the existence of evil in correspondance to the existence of God
When I was younger, and my father was still a faithful Christian, I overheard a conversation he had with my mother. They talked about evil and why it exists. It sounded irrational to my mother, how a loving God was even able to create evil and human beings who were able of commiting atrocities like murder and rape. My father gave an explanation that sounded very rational to me.
Life on earth is the foreplay to the infinite life after death. Life’s only purpose is to teach men and women to be good human beings. How could God separate good from bad souls, if evil did not exist?
Furthermore, we can add free will to the equation. Free will and the freedom to act and decorate our lives whichever way we want are fundamental principles of our modern age. If only “good” existed, free will would be something unknown to us. We would not even have conversations on free will because we would not be able to theorise it. Nevertheless, I hope at least, free will is something that most human beings cherish and value. Evil and the ability to choose freely between acting with bad or acting with good intentions, are the foundations of learning, wisdom and becoming human beings instead of animals. The reasonableness is clear when we see the Human as the creation of God on this planet with the role of superiority over other animals. Added to this, the theory of life on this earth being an audition for the infinite life after death, we can conclude that the existence of evil is not only reasonable, but entirely necessary. Nevertheless, the existence of evil has also been used as an argument for the non-existence of God and makes even the most faithful believers doubt their Religion and God.
The existence of Evil has the totally opposite result in this statement made by Jon Morrison. Evil does not strengthen his belief of the existence of God but it sabotages it. This argument is very plausible. How can the so-called omnipotent (all-powerful) and omnibenevolent (all-loving) God first of all create a species that is able to commit atrocities of the kind Gallaire has seen and furthermore NOT do anything to stop the suffering? Either God does not exist, or we have defined him wrongly because we cannot grasp his essence with our limited sensual and intellectual capacities.
Evil in the context of Philosophy
Different definitions of Evil
The problem starts when there is a species – humans – with individuals that are capable of having different conceptions of one term. Evil is an ambiguous term, as we can see in the currently flaming topic of abortion in the United States of America. On the one hand you have people who say that abortion is bad (evil) because it kills the baby – a potential human being, and on the other side people who claim that it is not bad (not evil) because the prohibition of abortion takes away the right of women to decide over their own bodies and consequently their own lives.
Furthermore, the ambiguity of the term “evil” is visible when religious or ideological fundamentalists do not believe that it is evil to kill, because they are doing it for their holy purposes. For those fundamentalists, whether they are muslim, christian, liberal, communist, nationalist, fascist or anti-fascist, the life of a person belonging to a hostile group is of no worth. Civilised people think that murder and violence are evil. Many ideological fundamentalists think that murder and violence are good, if they serve their purposes and higher goal(s). The so-called “necessary evil”. What you see as evil may be a blessing to me and vice-versa… what I see as evil may be a blessing to you.
I hope, even though I doubt, that globally we have achieved a consensus on classifying certain actions as “evil”. Whether that evil is proof for the existence or non-existence of God should be the personal choice of every individual human being, based on their (God given?) free will. This objectively existent evil should never be used to justify the motives of certain ideological groups, neither religious nor political.
Fortune favors the brave. This is a useful motto to live life by. As we go through life in our day to day routines, we face adversities, difficulties, and obstacles. In those situations the real content of our character is shown. In those situations we make the most important decision. Keep going or lose our focus. Keep going or be afraid and lose our bravery. When we lose our bravery we tend to give up. Giving up means that we are not rising to our potential and that is when Fortuna, the goddess of fortune and luck, looks at us with disgust and turns her back, leaving us fighting the battle alone. I do not think that is our desire. Our desire is to have Fortuna on our side, helping us fight our battles without fighting them for us.
Starting this blog is one of the results of living by the maxim “fortune favors the brave”. I love writing, I love philosophy and literature and I am creative. All of those things are coming together in this project. My blogposts will be mostly influenced and inspired by books that I read and quotes that I live by. Inspiring even only one person on this planet with my texts will be enough for me. Therefore, I do not start this with many expectations. I just want to create something that will stay with me until the end of my life. That is the only goal I have while creating this blog.
This introduction is an appeal to the reader to be brave. Listen to your passions and follow them, even if it means giving up something that you do not feel passionate about anymore. Nevertheless, calculate your next steps wisely. Unwise and excessive bravery can have destructive consequences. Combine bravery with intelligence, with thoughtfulness. This will lead you to success and contentment in life. And you will always have good company… the goddess of fortune and luck, Fortuna, will travel with you.