Today someone told me I was evil. It wasn’t a joke — the person meant it — and I had no response to that.
Being called an evil woman sounds much more romantic than what I am — someone who’s doing the best she can in a world gone awry. I admit my efforts sometimes fall flat, and once in a great while I make a given situation worse rather than better, especially when my loyalties are divided. As do we all. But that’s not being evil. That’s being human.
I don’t believe I’m evil, but the reason I couldn’t find a response to the accusation is that it made me wonder: If I am evil, would I know?
Think of all the wars begun in the name of God. Think of all the prejudice fomented by religious folk who adhered too closely to the dictates of the Old Testament. Think of all the pregnant teenagers thrown out into the snow by self-righteous parents. Think of all the people who have harmed others in the name of doing the “right” thing. Did any of these people believe they were evil? Of course not. I’m sure the devil wouldn’t even consider himself (or herself) evil. Like all villains, he/she is the hero of his/her own story. In his/her mind, he/she is the true force of the universe, while God is the evil one.
This person who believes I am evil based the assessment of me partly on lies I supposedly told, though I have no idea what those lies are. They can’t mean much in the big scheme of things, because I never lie for malicious purposes, though I do occasionally lie to protect me or someone else. And anyway, how much of the truth do we owe others? For example, if someone asks our weight, do we owe him/her the truth? If the person asking is a doctor or a health insurance company, of course, we owe them the truth, just as they owe us the truth about our medical condition, but otherwise divulging information about our weight is not a requirement. Offering a lie, perhaps giving a weight we are comfortable acknowledging, is usually more tactful and much easier than a direct refusal to answer.
We often lie without thinking about it, such as exaggerating our accomplishments a bit so that we come across both to ourselves and to others as being better than we are, but so often these lies are nothing more than hopes verbalized. Sometimes we downplay our accomplishments in the name of modesty. And sometimes we “fudge” the truth, not telling the truth, but not telling a direct lie, either, though the result is the same — a deception.
When it comes to friendship and other relationships, we do owe a certain amount of truth, especially the truth of who we are, but we don’t owe that truth to strangers or to those who don’t have our best interests at heart. In a perfect world, perhaps, we could tell everyone the truth, but in our particular world, divulging too much about ourselves is risky. And it’s especially risky when the person who is asking for our truth is not willing to give up any of his or her truth.
And then there are those who tell us the truth, or at least the truth as they see it, for only one reason, to cause pain.
Which brings me back to my evilness and the lies I supposedly told. I wish I could apologize for these unknown lies and whatever else led to this belief that I am evil, but it is impossible to talk to someone who will not listen. So I’m doing what I always do, dumping my worries and my wonderings onto this blog.
Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, andDaughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Follow Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.