Looking Evil in the Eye: Pretense

In my series of posts regarding aspects of evil found in our culture, I want to add this post due to its relevance to our current cultural and political makeup. I’m using the word “makeup “on purpose. Beyond it denoting a milieu or environment the word also connotes the topic of this post ~ pretense.

In his book People of the Lie:  The Hope for Healing Human Evil, Dr. M. Scott Peck writes in the chapter titled “The Encounter with Evil in Everyday Life” that

 “The issue of naming (evil) is a theme of this work. It has already been touched on in diverse instances: science has failed to name evil as a subject for scrutiny; the name evil does not appear in the psychiatric lexicon; we have been reluctant to label specific individuals with the name evil; in their presence, therefore, we may experience a nameless dread or revulsion; yet the naming of evil is not without danger.

To name something correctly gives us a certain amount of power over it. Through its name we identify it.  We are powerless over a disease until we can accurately name it…The treatment begins with its diagnosis.  But is evil an illness? Many would not consider it so.  There are a number of reasons why one might be reluctant to classify evil as a disease.  Some are emotional. For instance, we are accustomed to feel pity and sympathy for those who are ill, but the emotions that evil invoke in us are anger and disgust, if not actual hate…

Beyond our emotional reactions, there are three rational reasons that make us hesitate to regard evil as an illness…I shall nonetheless take the position that evil should indeed be regarded as a mental illness.”

Dr. Peck goes on to discuss the three reasons. I will use summary quotes.

 “The first holds that people should not be considered ill unless they are suffering pain or disability – that there is no such thing as an illness without suffering….it is characteristic of the evil that, in their narcissism, they believe that there is nothing wrong with them, that they are psychologically perfect human specimens…For we realize that their inability to define themselves as ill in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary is actually part of the illness itself…The use of the concept of emotional suffering to define disease is also faulty in several other respects. As I noted in The Road Less Traveled, it is often the most spiritually healthy and advanced among us who are called on to suffer in ways more agonizing than anything experienced by the more ordinary.  Great leaders, when wise and well, are likely to endure degrees of anguish unknown to the common man. Conversely, it is the unwillingness to suffer emotional pain that usually lies at the root of emotional illness.  Those who fully experience depression, doubt, confusion and despair may be infinitely more healthy than those who are generally certain, complacent and self satisfied.  The denial of suffering is, in fact, a better definition of illness than its acceptance.

The evil deny the suffering of their guilt – the painful awareness of their sin, inadequacy and imperfection – by casting their pain onto others through projection and scapegoating.  They themselves may not suffer, but those around them do.  They cause suffering.  The evil create for those under their dominion a miniature sick society.”…

 Finally, who is to say what the evil suffer? It is consistently true that the evil do not appear to suffer deeply.  Because they cannot admit to weakness or imperfection in themselves, they must appear this way.  They must appear to themselves to be continually on top of things, continually in command.  Their narcissism demands it…

Think of the psychic energy required for the continued maintenance of the pretense so characteristic of the evil!…”

“I said that there are two other reasons one might hesitate to label evil as an illness…One is the notion that someone who is ill must be a victim….One way or another, to some extent, all these people (the evil) and a host of others victimize themselves. Their motives, failures and choices are deeply and intimately involved in the creation of their injuries and diseases….

The final argument against labeling evil an illness is the belief that evil is a seemingly untreatable condition…It is the central proposition of this book that evil can and should be subjected to scientific scrutiny…It would, I believe, be quite appropriate to classify evil people as constituting a specific variant of the narcissistic personality disorder.”

Dr. Peck goes on to describe this variant of personality disorder:

“In addition to the abrogation of responsibility that characterizes all personality disorders, this one would specifically be distinguished by:

(a)    consistent destructive, scapegoating behavior, which may often be quite subtle.

(b)    excessive, albeit usually covert, intolerance to criticism and other forms of narcissistic injury.

(c)    Pronounced concern with a public injury and self-image of respectability, contributing to a stability of life-style but also to pretentiousness and denial of hateful feelings or vengeful motives.

(d)   Intellectual deviousness, with an increased likelihood of a mild schizophrenic-like disturbance of thinking at time of stress.

But there is another vital reason to correctly name evil:  the healing of its victims.”

(all emphasis -bold type- mine) 

*****************

 Over the course of some sixty years I have encountered some distinctly evil people.  The common characteristic of their personality is the veneer of pretense with which they surround their lives.  Perhaps, instead of the word “veneer” the word “mirror” would better convey the 360 degree reflection of themselves they so desire.

In their mind’s eye they see themselves in a grandiose role, a self-assessed worthy role (remember Shakespeare’s Macbeth and Lady Macbeth?). To support their ‘self-thesis’ the pretentious will seek out others who will regard them in the same way ~ a Super Pac to fund a super ego (the three witches met Macbeth; his ego chose to ‘believe’ their words). Pretentious people will demand to be seen in their ‘light’ only. You become to them only a speck in their shadow.

Those, of course, who can rightly see what every one else can see will disagree. And, if they make any statement contrary to the ‘fairy tale’ narrative imposed they will be called deniers and ignorant or worse. 

Today our nation has a President who fits all of the above characteristics of pretense. God help us.

Jesus said, “If the light in you is darkness how great is that darkness.”

Jesus’ perfect love can cast out fear…and evil.

~~~~~

I liken the characteristic of pretense to the walls of Jericho:   The huge stone walls of Jericho looked invincible. Yet, after seven days of marching around the façade with God’s presence (the Ark) in the lead and with ram’s horns blowing on the seventh day, the walls fell down; the city of Jericho became indefensible. My how the mighty façades have fallen over the years.

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