My 7 year old son told a friend of ours last Sunday “you’re evil.”
Nice way to be greeted at church, huh? she told me about it, laughing, so I asked him, hey, I heard you said Courtney is evil, what’s up with that?
“Oh,” he said, perhaps worried that he was in trouble, “I was just exaggerating.”
The nature of humanity has long been debated. The debate usually focuses on our nature. We are essentially good, or evil, or neither or both.
A more helpful framing of the discussion is that we are by nature filled with potential. We are set in motion. We make an impact. When we put our minds to it, we’re difficult to stop!
Most of the most evil people we deal with are those souls who go shoot up schools. It’s not unusual for us to say they were “pure evil” but I’d like to observe that often these evil people often come bursting out of a basement where they’ve been playing violent video games and living lives full of quiet desperation born of the thought that they’ll never live up to their potential. If potential is a finite thing, to be used for good or for evil or partly for both (and I’m not sure that it is, just trying the idea out here) if that is the case, they end up using a lifetime of potential in one fell swoop, stealing the potential from everyone else in the process.
The antidote must involve helping young men to recognize that they have potential before they hit the depths of despair. Our society’s mantra “go to school, get a job” is partly responsible. Nobody says “raise tomatoes and pick up trash” or “walk to the beach and paint the sunrise” or any other alternative mantra for those whom school does not come easily. The alternative “sit in basement, play video games, drink Yellow 5” is not building young people. We need to tell people “You’re good because you’re full of potential” rather than “you’re evil” and we need to do it without a hint of exaggeration.