Over the last three weeks in our message series called, Spin Doctoring: Turning Negatives Into Positives, we’ve been exploring how to work through suffering in healthy and constructive ways.
In the first week of this bulletin series, we looked at the problem of physical evil—disease, accidents, natural disasters and other forms of trauma not caused by human beings. In the second week, we reflected on the problem of pure evil and how the forces of darkness can overwhelm us. Last week, Father Celestine offered some practical tips to overcome suffering.
Today, we turn to the problem of moral evil, which is almost exclusively the product of human sin. Moral evil arises through human wrongdoing and in no way is caused or intended by God. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church puts it, human beings are “intelligent and free creatures,” and “can therefore go astray” (n. 311). Moral evil arises in our world as a result of free will, but God permits it because of his respect for “the freedom of his creatures” (Id.).
On occasion, moral evil is self-inflicted, caused by our own poor choices and decisions that arise from our common human weakness. At other times, moral evil enters our lives through the malevolence of others. Either way, here are a few coping strategies that can help you deal with moral evil:
1. Assign Blame Accurately. When confronting conflict, we too often attribute fault to the incorrect source. We either mistakenly blame ourselves for the misconduct of others or falsely excuse ourselves from any culpability. When trouble arises, the first step is to assess the source of the conflict accurately. Look to yourself first, then determine where others went wrong. As Jesus says in the gospel, “Remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter in your brother’s eye” (Luke 6:42).
2. Confront the Offender. If someone has hurt you, work up the moral strength to confront him or her. Letting your feelings fester will only degenerate into deep-seated resentment. While revenge is antithetical to Christian discipleship, facing the situation head-on in a constructive way can help you feel more empowered and in control, something victims of moral evil rarely experience.
3. Learn from the Situation. Disturbance in your own sense of internal peace by the transgressions of others often comes about through the failure to set and enforce clear boundaries. We are often too afraid to ask for what we need and so let the status quo take root until we reach a breaking point, at which stage managing the situation productively often is no longer an option.
4. Look for Meaning in the Conflict. As we said in the first article on natural evil, look for opportunities to step into a heroic role and turn to Christ, who experienced suffering himself, to find solidarity in his consolation. It is in our trust in God that we will find meaning and growth, even in suffering.
--Father Roger Gustafson, Pastor
Father Roger Gustafson