“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good [people] to do nothing?”- Edmund Burke
This quotation has always moved my spirit in many ways. As a person who has a trouble with conflict situations, I remember this quote and it reminds me that doing nothing is still an action, but it’s an action that allows bad things to happen.
However, for the longest time, I have always looked at this quote and believed that its message is for us to stand up for the oppressed. It calls us to participate in social justice and not be silent when we have the chance to do some good. I do not believe that this is the only message that can be interpreted from this quote.
I believe that Edmund Burke intended this statement to be a way for us to think about our actions when we are in the face of evil. However, when you think of evil, what are your first thoughts?
Oppression, Hatred, Apathy, Violence, Murder. I’m sure the list can go on and on.
Now where does this evil come from? That is a complicated question and many theologians and religious teachings have wrestled with the source of evil in our world. For the most part, when we think of evil, our first thought immediately comes from some outside source.
This outside source can take many forms: other people who perform evil things, or some evil being (e.g. devil) outside of this world. In this perspective, something is bringing evil into the world and if we do nothing, we allow evil to not only continue, but to get larger and larger.
However, there is also an inside source of evil. And it lives inside of you and me.
Think about it. How many times have you put yourself down, told yourself how worthless you are, or how you don’t matter or that you don’t deserve happiness? These are only a few negative statements that originate within our own thoughts.
These thoughts come from an evil source that lives inside of us. Oppression, Hatred, Apathy, Violence, and Murder are not acts of evil that can only happen from outside sources. I know so many people who oppress themselves, who hate themselves, who don’t care about themselves, who hurt themselves and who even kill themselves, emotionally and even physically.
It breaks my heart when I meet a beautiful soul who commits harmful acts on him and herself. And I know it breaks many of my friends and family member’s hearts when they hear about how I commit harmful acts against myself. There are many days that I tell myself that I hate myself. I oppress myself in many ways: I don’t think I am worthy of social interaction or finding love so I hide myself away. I call myself negative names and these negative names warp my identity from a beautiful creature into a hideous monster.
And the sad truth is that I am not alone. In different and similar ways, we all struggle to love our true selves and give into the voices that constantly bring us down.
But remember, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil, is for good [people] to do nothing?”
If we allow these voices to reign in our minds; if we do nothing to help ourselves, the evil in our minds continues and will lead to negative and unhealthy actions.
But how do we act within our own minds? How do we remove these thoughts from our minds? This has always been a struggle for me and the unfortunate truth is that these voices never truly go away forever.
A comparison model that I like to use for this topic is washing the dishes (or doing any cleaning activity). Think of yourself as a single plate dish. At the beginning of creation, a dish is clean, just like we are at birth. But the plate never stays clean. It gets used and it continues to accumulate more and more food. Eventually, the plate needs to be cleaned. But after the plate is cleaned, the plate never remains clean. The plate is used again and needs to be cleaned again. It’s an unending cycle of cleaning. But it is necessary.
It’s the same with us. The negative thoughts in our minds are not purged from our minds once. It is a continuous life process to heal our minds from the negative thoughts that seek to control our lives. And there are many techniques to clean our dishes.
The best technique I am learning is to begin the process of loving who you are as a person. If you do not find yourself worthy, then cleaning our dishes becomes so much harder to do.
For those who struggle to love your true, beautiful selves, here are some ideas:
-Every morning, face yourself in the mirror. Tell yourself that you are beautiful, you are worthy, and you are a blessing. The more times that you do this and repeat it, the more easier it gets to believe.
-Add notes around your living space that affirm who you are so you have a constant reminder.
It’s also important that you realize that you are worthy enough to get help. Shame is a terrible curse to bear especially when you have been living with a dirty dish for a long time.
But I assure you that you have someone, at least one person, in your life who loves you so much that they want to help you. And there are even strangers out there who want to help you just as much.
Almost two months ago, I realized that I had a lot of dirty dishes in my sink. I was depressed, I was still grieving, I was alone in a new place, and I listening to the voices inside of me telling me that I was worthless. Eventually, I knew I had to clean my dishes so I decided to see a counselor.
I was ashamed at first and so embarrassed to step foot into the Counseling Center. But I found courage. I decided that I was not going to do nothing anymore and since that first meeting, I have felt a lot better about myself.
I know my dishes will continue to get dirty. I know that I will still have to live with the negative voices in my head and struggle with the daily challenges that are in our lives. But after cleaning my first dish, I began the habit of cleaning my dishes on a regular basis. Learning how to clean our dishes will make the trials and pains of our life so much easier to manage.
So this is my invitation to you. I invite you to learn what is on your plate. What do you need to do in order to begin the process of removing what’s on your plate? And who do you need to talk to in order to not feel ashamed, but happy and glad that you are the best person you can be and that is all that matters.
Don’t be afraid to do nothing and let the evil voice in your mind continue.
As Gandhi once said, “Be the change you want to see in the world”. The first step to change begins with you.
I love you for who you are and May you embrace who you are with your entire Ruah!