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Evil is so boring

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Unsplash/Marek Piwnicki

A few weeks back, I was chatting with a girl who was cutting my hair and the subject turned to dating. I mentioned to her the experiences of my two daughters who are in the thick of the dating world, which prompted her to tell me how she has a proclivity to date “bad boys.”

Naturally, I asked her why. She smiled and then went on with a wink to tell me how they look and act rough, can be involved in things that are risky and sometimes dangerous, have a maybe-I-care-maybe-I-don’t swagger to them, are unpredictable, seem forbidden, and so on.

“So, how’s that workin’ out for you?”, I asked casually.

Mistake.  

I swear the temperature in the room dropped 30 degrees. Her face changed from a broad smile into a solemn and downright angry look, which she threw at me like Thor’s hammer.  

“I’m guessing I touched a nerve?”, I asked sheepishly, realizing that with the scissors, razors, and trimmers in her hand, she could turn my head into a Mexican hairless in about 1.5 seconds.   

Once that awkward moment passed, she opened up and spoke some sad truths about how she’s been mistreated and the hurt she’s endured. That includes even the guy she’s currently seeing who she described as an “a$$^0!#”, but not as big an “a$$^0!#” as some of her previous fellas.

Not much of an improvement if you ask me.

My oh my…isn’t it odd how we can be drawn to something that looks "bad" on the outside and somehow believe we won’t get burned by the bad that’s on the thing inside?

The monotonous nature of evil  

The French philosopher Simone Weil made an interesting observation on the fact that we tend to romanticize the bad and feel bored with what’s good. She noted that in fictional works, it’s true that characters like anti-heroes and even villains, with their brooding and complex, questionable personalities, can seem more appealing than those wearing the white hat.

But in real life, she said, it’s the exact opposite.

“Imaginary evil,” wrote Weil, “is romantic and varied but real evil is gloomy, monotonous, barren, and boring. Imaginary good is boring but real good is always new, marvelous, and intoxicating.”

And why is real evil boring? Because it cares about only one thing: itself.

If you’ve ever spent time with a narcissist, you understand this. Everything is about them, all they think about is themselves, and it doesn’t take very long for their self-centeredness to bore you to tears.  

The fact that real evil is mind-numbing because it only ever looks inward caused theologian Tim Keller to remark, “Can you imagine how incredibly boring Satan must be?”

When it comes to evil, the early church fathers like Augustine and some of the ancient philosophers defined it as a privation and/or corruption that exists in something that was originally good and perfect. In other words, the absence or brokenness in something results in evil.

Evil, then, isn’t a ‘thing’ per se, but the deficit of a thing, much in the same way that darkness isn’t a thing, but rather the absence of light. And it doesn’t take long for you to get bored out of your mind when you do nothing but sit in the dark.

With respect to us initially being attracted to what’s “bad,” we forget that rebellion against good is rebellion against God. Thankfully, we can snap out of that by looking at the ultimate example of Weil’s statement of the good being always new, marvelous, and intoxicating, which is Jesus.   

Jesus is anything but boring. Remember He’s the guy who triggered even those sent to arrest Him to say, “Never has a man spoken the way this man speaks” (John 7:46) and caused those selling goods in the temple to run with their tails between their legs (Matt. 21:12). These things and more might be why, time after time, He gets the nod as the most important person in human history, even among non-Christians.

Or maybe it’s because, instead of always turning inward as evil does, Christ constantly bloomed outward and in doing so became electrifying and magnetic to everyone around Him. Whether they were disciples or enemies, no one ever said Jesus was humdrum.

He’s the guy my hair stylist ultimately needs to help her reframe the view she has of herself. At the end of our conversation, she said: “I dunno…is it because I don’t feel I deserve any better that I keep hooking up with these bums?”

Getting to know Jesus would show her that she matters and does indeed deserve something better. He’d help adjust her vision so that she would rightly see the boring nature of those who are intrinsically bad and move on to something that’s good, which is “always new, marvelous, and intoxicating.”   

Robin Schumacher is an accomplished software executive and Christian apologist who has written many articles, authored and contributed to several Christian books, appeared on nationally syndicated radio programs, and presented at apologetic events. He holds a BS in Business, Master's in Christian apologetics and a Ph.D. in New Testament. His latest book is, A Confident Faith: Winning people to Christ with the apologetics of the Apostle Paul.

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