Evil does not exist

The Holy Fathers say that evil in and of itself does not exist. Evil is a distortion of reality. Evil is the desperate attempt of a thought that is not in accord with God’s will to enter into existence.

Since evil has no existence of its own, everything that does exist is good. God did not create anything bad; thus, neither is the source of evil. Evil is the absence of good, the absence of existence. This is analogue with the light and darkness. Darkness does not have an origin while light must have one. Evil is the existential darkness.

The problem, therefore, is within us, rooted in the the use of our free will. We have the freedom to move away from God, who is self-existing — or even more correctly, who is above existence — and the source of all that exists. This movement away from God is bad for us. Hence the things and experiences of this world, while good in themselves, may become harmful for us if they lead us away or distract us from God. Similarly, if they lead us towards God, then we may say they are good for us. Also, though something may be good for us at a certain time or in a certain situation, it may be spiritually harmful in other circumstances. In a rather simplified example, eating an apple when we are hungry and in need of nourishment is good and of benefit; eating that same apple when we have already eaten too much becomes the sin of gluttony.

Our aim, therefore, is to seek God’s will and to fulfill it in all circumstances. Hence, the question „How can I have good thoughts in this situation?” must be changed to „How must I handle this, according to God’s will, in order to be closer to Him?”

Since something exists, it is good. We must just be careful in our thoughts, with regard to our thoughts, to clean them: throw away most of negative thoughts and keep only the ones which are in accordance with God’s will. Hence, a very good thought is the humble one, saying: „My God, I don’t know why You allowed this to happen. Please enlighten me to handle it as You wish.”

Based on St. John of Damascus

This photo depicts a moment from the great fire at Monoxiliti, near Hilandari Monastery in 2012.

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