When I was about 8 or 9-years-old, I heard about the devil for the first time. I did not know or really understand much about the devil except that the devil was bad news. I was introduced to words like ‘good’ for God and ‘evil’ for Satan or the Devil, and that you go to heaven if you do good and go to hell if you do bad. I interpreted that the devil was evil and was the leader of wreaking havoc and hypnotizing others to do bad, while God was good and had all these flowing guardian angels to watch out for us to ward away the bad and the evil. I was told from my Mom: “The devil can make you do bad things.”
I did not really understand this. Were God and Devil the masters and we were the puppets that would do good or bad because of them? Weren’t we in control of our own actions and ways? Weren’t our environment, friends, family, and life experiences all just as important to bringing out the best and even the worst?
Then, in high school, I visited prison for the first time as a requirement to my Criminal Law class. I was absolutely petrified and more willing to take a “F” for failing the class than to have to step foot in a prison. As my teacher joked jovially, “We are only going to maximum security prison of the mass murderers and not the sex offenders who are in a whole other prison.” The prisoners screamed profanities that made my classmates and I shake in our sneakers. After their screaming fest, they served us wide-eyed teenagers tuna casserole with four slices of white Wonder Bread. Surprisingly, the prisoners homemade tuna casserole was very tasty.
The prisoners who were grown and aging men broke down crying and sobbing: “There is ALWAYS someone watching you!” I wondered if it was the God or the Devil watching them, and watching all of us. Learning about the criminal law system and visiting these prisoners made me begin to feel sympathy of how they were ostracized and how certain circumstances led to their committed crime in the heat of the moment and not being able to undo the damage they done. It hit home with me that there are moments that completely change the course of your life and that all the remorse and even guilt in the world cannot undo the damage done on yourself and the people that you hurt. It hit home with me that people can never really forget and forgive.
Then, in college, I took a social psychology class. We had a whole course on the mind and actions of murderers that can heavily be caused by society, our social settings and situations, our upbringing, and our experiences. My professor said: “We are quick to blame and call murderers ‘monsters’ and I am not alleviating them or anyone of sins and committed crimes, but I want you to think about what drives a person to kill? What are the explanations behind the actions to then remedy them?” I took away from this class that everyone plays a part and there is always a side to every story based on our very own reality. No human is free of flaws and sins. In footage, murderers’ faces were blank and empty expressions and, the scariest of all, a smirks or what appeared to be an evil glimmer of satisfaction. With a chill that blanketed me, this is when I began to believe and understand that evil does exist and question: “Are people born evil?”
Recently, I learned about a boy no more than 8-years-old who is being trained alongside his classmates of the three following drills: Weather Drills, Fire Drills, and he could not remember the name of the third drill, but it was a ‘lockdown drill’ where he and all his classmates must hide and keep quiet. This pierces me in a way I cannot put into words of the world we are living in. I believe that as much evil exists, there is also good. It has been hard for me to focus on the good in these times, and I sense the heavy and heartache and anger and bitterness around more people than not. I also know that there are positive changes of light that must be made in a world that is hurting and appears to be quite dim and dark now. I do not know the answers, and am filled with more questions of God and Devil, good and evil, and the flawed humans we are while we try to balance our sinful sins with good deeds.
I think the world we live in now makes us question and ponder more than ever about the good versus evil. Are people born or have a predisposition to evilness or evil tendencies and actions? How about on the flipside- are people born good? When were you told of God and Devil and do you believe in heaven and hell? What causes good and evil?