When you have been hurt or taken advantage of, when evil has gotten one over on you, there is a natural tendency to want to hurt back, to even the score. When you feel life hasn’t meted out a proper punishment your ego may take it upon itself to restore justice. At these times, it is important to keep something in mind: evil wants to trigger your egocentricity. If it can engage you in battles, lingering resentments, fantasies and efforts of revenge, if it can provoke attitudes of self-righteousness or idealism, it has often accomplished its goals. By keeping you focused on the injustice done to you, fueling dreams of payback or the personal quest to right a wrong, it has achieved its end. Paradoxically, trying to fight evil is just what evil often wants you to do.
No one is a match for raw or primal evil, what in Jungian psychology is called archetypal evil. Most evil is best avoided and sidestepped rather than naively and directly engaged. It is foolhardy to go out and try to fight evil in other peoples’ lives unless this is truly your station or duty in a given situation. It is dangerous to fight evil if the forces of life are not on your side. If your ego is going rogue—on a hero trip—your chances of survival are greatly reduced.
There is a twofold danger in trying to play the hero or carrier of a cause. First, there is a strong temptation to see yourself as righteous and that which you fight as all evil. In other words, you are more likely to project your darkness onto the other party. This is a dangerous perspective to have because it promotes psychological inflation and the distortion of reality. You can be seduced into a grandiose view of your own position and a distortedly dark and one-sided view of the other’s. This type of polarized thinking inhibits real communication and the development of a creative, healing response. You may bristle at an abuse of power, yet get sucked into a retaliatory power stance yourself.
Secondly, playing the hero in battles with evil often brings more evil. This is not difficult to understand. A great basketball player gets double-teamed. A great running back encounters defenses designed just for him. Why would evil be any different? Saviors and those who lead the charge of positive change are often rewarded with death or assassination (Jesus, Lincoln, and Martin Luther King to name an obvious few). Similarly, new pastors who try to do too much too soon within their congregations are often vilified or may end up sabotaging their own reputations and efforts. Evil has an uncanny way of turning zealous idealism to its own ends.
Trying to play the hero or proudly taking on a cause is a good way to get killed. Play the hero only when you have to and adopt a cause only if truly called to do so. Justifying your involvement by saying, “Well if I don’t do it, who will?” is not a good reason. Just because evil is occurring does not mean that life is asking you to join the fray. Address the evil that arises of its own accord in your life, whether it comes from outside of you or within you. Face the shadow and evil in your own life. Genuinely addressing the darkness in yourself will provide sufficient challenge, trials, and danger for one lifetime.
Ultimately, the only antidote to the soul-crushing effects of evil is your ability to learn from your experiences. If you do not grow in consciousness and insight from what you have gone through, the worm of evil burrows its way into the roots of your soul. Without learning, without growth in consciousness, evil is able to plant seeds of discouragement, bitterness, resentment, and cynicism. Wisdom and consciousness are the counterbalance to the negative sum of evil. Seeing more deeply into the nature and complexity of life is the redeeming gift we may distill from encounters with evil. We are unlikely to be victimized in the same way again. Your soul wounds become the source of new life and deepened consciousness, adding to the integrity of the personality and the development of character. With consciousness, territories won by evil are returned to the armies of the soul. The wounded are healed and return to the field of battle stronger and smarter than they were before. You will be less likely to behave or experience yourself as a victim in the future, for you will be a redeemer—someone who extracts gold from the pain, hardships, and injustices of life.