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E…Evil Woman

Remember the Electric Light Orchestra? I couldn’t resist. But I really want to say something about an e…evil woman. Actually, not really. I just wanted an excuse to say e..evil woman. Okay, I’ve said it, again. Now I’ve got it out of my system. I’ll stop with that.

But I do want to talk about evil. Evil’s such a dicey word. Evil? What is evil? What really makes someone evil? Do evil people exist?

That is, can someone even be evil: Are people evil, or just their behaviors?

I remember a friend of mine, a close friend, years ago, once called me an “evil m*therf*cker,” and I laughed. Did I laugh because I’m evil, thereby validating his accusation? Or did I laugh because I was secure enough to know I’m not?

By the way, what prompted his accusation was a really cruel, funny practical joke I played on him. I’m afraid he found it much more cruel than funny, whereas I found it much funnier than cruel. (Maybe some other time I’ll describe the joke?)

Speaking of cruel, is there a relationship between evil and cruelty? Are they the same thing? When you’re being cruel, or committing a cruel act, are you being evil? Is the cruelty itself evil?

If you don’t have a headache by now, I do. But that’s okay…I’ll even make it worse by posing some more light questions, like: Are exploiters, by definition, evil? Is exploitation always evil? Or, must acts of exploitation reach a certain threshhold of heinousness to constitute evil?

And what about our favorite friends, the sociopaths? Are sociopaths, by definition, evil? Sometimes? Always?

And then, of course, the really ultimate question: Do you really think I’m going to answer these questions?

Do you really think I’m crazy, and grandiose, enough, to tackle these questions?

Maybe I am…but I can assure you, not adequately. Still, I will “man up” and offer some “takes” on these heady matters, if for no other purpose than to drum-up some good discussion!

I fully expect, incidentally, your feedback to change my mind on, and views of, these questions many times, exposing (you can be sure) the fickleness of my positions.

But, for the moment, here are my short answers:

I believe people can be evil, not just do evil; in other words, I believe some people are evil.

I believe that evil is always cruel, but that cruelty is not always evil.

I believe that evil is always exploitative, but that exploitation is not always evil.

I believe that evil is always destructive, but that destructiveness is not always evil.

Consistent with these views, I believe that some exploiters and, more specifically, some sociopaths—but not all—are evil.

Now, for my personal working definition of evil, in all its glaring limitations: Evil, as I see it, is the lust to express cruelty towards, and/or destructiveness of, others.

There it is. Note the boldfaced “lust to express;” I regard the “lust” as a central element of evil.

Let me dive right into an elaboration of some of my positions.

Evil is always cruel, but cruelty is not always evil. My view here is that evil, fortunately, is less commonplace than cruelty. Cruelty, however, is tragically commonplace.

Most of us are capable of cruelty, but most of us are not evil. This isn’t to diminish the impact of cruelty. In fact, because cruelty is so commonplace and destructive, it is arguably the worst part of human nature.

But not all cruelty is lust-driven. When cruelty is lust-driven, it is evil. When not, it is something less than evil—although I stress that even this debatable point doesn’t lessen cruelty’s impact one iota.

I think the same applies to “exploitation”—that is, exploitation is cruel, always, but not always evil. Valid or not, this assertion isn’t meant to minimize the potentially traumatic impact of exploitation.

Let me give a relatively benign example: A slick colleague convinces you to lend him $150 cash, promising to pay you back in a couple days. The next day, he’s gone. Has left the job. Quit. Never gave notice. The boss is bewildered, and you are too. You never hear from him again. You knew him well enough (so you thought) to lend him the money, but not, as it turns out, as well as you thought. The money probably bought his Amtrak ticket to Seattle.

You were fleeced. He knew he’d be gone, and he had no intention of honoring his debt. To him, you weren’t so much a nice guy whose generosity he appreciated, as much as, ultimately, a sucker. You were taken. He’s a sociopath.

But he needed the money, and put it to practical use. The problem is, he stole it from you. But he needed the money, and money is money, however he can get his hands on it. Not all sociopaths think like this, but some do.

This sociopath was thinking somewhat pragmatically; he needed the money and schemed to get it. But here’s the point: He didn’t lust for your suffering as much as he lusted for your money. Basically, he was greedy and sociopathically conniving, and so he took what he wanted, not per se to inflict pain or harm on you, but because he wanted it.

In this instance, he is exploitative, in my view, but not evil.

Is he cruel? Not in this example. I define cruel as having an intention to inflict harm or pain on someone. This could be mental, or physical pain. It is arguably cruel, for instance, to dismiss someone contemptuously, and yet it is not necessarily cruel, but is definitely exploitative, to con someone out of $150.

A former client of mine, around 1994, shot-up a bunch of kids at a swimming pool with a semi-automatic weapon. (For my own pathetic ego, I was grateful he waited until about two years after I last saw him.) He’d been dually diagnosed as a psychopath and paranoid schizophrenic. Was he evil? I don’t think so, although I appreciate that those kids, and their families, might have thought so.

In any case, I think he was more paranoid than evil, although he was certainly cruel. I also think that he believed that those kids were evil.

So, in this case, which is not hypothetical, I’d suggest that my ex-client was cruel, but not necessarily evil, or for that matter, even exploitative.

How about a Bernie Madoff? Is Bernie Madoff evil? I don’t think so. Yet he may very well be a sociopath and most certainly was heinously exploitative. Was he cruel? I don’t think so, again. I don’t think it was Madoff’s intention to inflict suffering on anyone. That wasn’t his primary motive to do what he did, despite the devastating impact of his greed and deception.

Regarding cruelty: for me, to be cruel implies, and requires, an intention to cruelty; it is a separate issue whether the consequences of your actions are experienced as cruel. I suspect that Madoff’s victims will describe him as cruel, if only for his indifference. However, I don’t see, from the little that is known about this case, that “cruelty” drove Madoff’s exploitation.

Now let’s tackle some big fish: How about Saddam Hussein and Adolph Hitler?

Hussein, in my view, was both cruel and exploitative, but I’m not sure I’d call him evil. Hussein’s lust was principally for power, less principally (one might argue) evil-driven. His cruelty was more a means to an end—the “end” being the consolidation and preservation of his power, by whatever ruthless means necessary. Was he a sociopath? Very possibly.

Hitler, I think, was cruel, exploitative, and evil. Hitler’s lust transcended his obsession with power; his was a lust to exterminate the Jews and other “non-desirables.” In other words, apart from his pathological lust for power, he also had a lust for cruelty and destruction. The latter meets the criteria of evil.

What do you think? Whatever it is, I’m betting it’ll change my mind?

(This article is copyrighted (c) 2009 by Steve Becker, LCSW.)



143 Comments on "E…Evil Woman"

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  1. OxDrover says:

    Dear Gem,

    The sad thing is that though the Ps are the “bad guys” they damage everyone around them one way or another. They hurt others and damage relationships with grandparents, parents, grandkids, neighbors and so on….it is just what they do.

    Unfortunately there is not a darned thing in this world we can really do to UN-do what they have done or continue to do.

    This afternoon when I got back from town I stopped by to see my first cousin, and he is the one in charge of my egg donor now, and there is this “tension” in the air. I know that if I said anything about “is there something you are upset with me about?” he would of course say “WHATEVER would make you ask that?” DUH!!???

    Of course that is part of the GASLIGHTING that is done. He isn’t an evil or bad person, just grew up with Uncle Monster abusing him and his sibs and his mom and the FAMILY game of “let’s pretend none of this has happened” or “let’s pretend I haven’t abused you.” Cousin isn’t abusing me in any way, he is just not able to honestly communicate and because of that he is somewhat angry at me, but since he isn’t “allowed” to be angry or feel it or express it, he gaslights….and though I know what is going on, I PRETEND that I’m not getting his SUBTLE message that he is unhappy with me because I am not “communicating” with my egg donor—and, after all, how on earth can you “fix” the situation if you won’t sit still for abuse or you won’t play the GAME?

    All of it like a HAMSTER ON A WHEEL, the faster he runs, the faster he GETS NO WHERE!

    I know that I can’t change anything by breaking NC and I am like Gem, there is nothing that is going to make me break NC. So, I pretend to cousin that I don’t notice he is ANGRY with me, and being “subtle” and passive aggressive in such a very cautious and subtle manner. The “gaslighting tango” as the book says. But I will not engage because I know there is no way to win that one. Gem there isn’t any way you can win with the SIL or your X-dtr, any more than there is with my cousin and me or my egg donor. JUST REFUSING TO ENGAGE is the only way we can maintain, and there is NO way to “win” in this contest. It is like two dogs listing their legs at each other, but I refuse to even acknowledge that I see or hear the other dog. NC Forever!

  2. witsend says:

    Geminigirl,
    you know mama gem I think it still is wise to not burn any bridges with your SIL. Lay low. You never know when he might need your “sevices” with the grandkids in the future.

    No pressure, but just let him know that you are willing and able to babysit during spring break, summer break, winter break, weekends….If he ever needs you to, and leave it at that.
    Your daughter might let him down one day and not be there, when he needs her to babysit….(especially with a new g/f in the picture)

    I know how thoughtful you are momma gem (our dear lily)….Send those grandkids, letters, cards, little trinkets in the mail. They might even ask to visit with you and spend time with you. Don’t let the kids forget about you inbetween visits. Send love through the mail. Not expensive gifts, not money, love tokens.
    And he might give in to their wishes when they ask about you :)

  3. conomo says:

    MamaGem, I don’t want to discourage you, but if you can send your letters, cards, etc via personal delivery — third party or maybe registered(never knew enough to do that one myself)—please do that. My ex intercepted these things via mail from both me and my mom. Plus we very rarely got thanks in any form for those they did receive. I’m sure it was because they were not encouraged to or further taught what I tried to teach.
    My children were pawns that hurt me and my family without really understanding the long term implications. Then it just became a reality to them to get what they could or be party to outright hurt in the end. I don’t know. that’s how it went down though. And in the meantime, me and my mom and sister had tug of wars about it all. I for many years kept encouraging my family to keep contact even though they saw the manipulations at times. Talk about triangulations!
    You have to keep trying. I don’t know if I should have guarded my heart more or less — in the end.
    You have to to your best and deal with whatever happens I guess. You and your grandkids deserve an honest chance!! Namaste Gem!

  4. geminigirl says:

    conomo, Im the same, I never get even a phone call to let me know if the gifts have even arrived, much less a thank you!
    I have to call THEM to find out,a] if the present arrived, and b] if they liked it. When I complained to the dad that I never get a phone thanks even, I was “sent to Coventy,” ie, frozen out, for half a year.
    Today I sent ofa nice parcel to my 9 year old Gdaughter, a pretty top, a watch, a purse,[with cash in it,} stickers, her small easter eggs that I was hoping to give her if she came over,{didnt happen.]her Birthday is next week, but my SIL has made it clear I wont see her, as my spath daugher has the kids weekends. Love, mamaGem.XX

  5. OxDrover says:

    Dear Gem,

    I know it hurts that they never call YOU, but keep on making 100% of the effort, it is love cast “upon the waters” and you never know when or how it will be returned.

    Give, NOT expecting thanks—-if we only give because we expect thanks (especially with children!) we may wait in vain. LOL

    Keep sending cards, letters and calling! and NEVER NEVER complain to the SIL—Honey, I hate to say this, but he can’t be TOO BRIGHT if he would leave the kids with the mom, BUT on the other hand, he DID care enough to get custody so that also says some GOOD thiings about him. Right now he may be more interested in getting laid than anything else, and my guess is the GF isn’t any real PRIZE either.l

    And, sooner or LATER she WILL dump on him again. We KNOW she is not staying with the kids on weekends for THEIR benefit or the SIL’s benefit either. she is getting something out of it—if nothing else,, to keep YOU from seeing them.

    The thing is Gem, you MUST QUIT FUSSING AND GRIEVING OVER WHAT YOU CANNOT CONTROL—and that is the behavior of others. I know you have made TREMJENDOUS progress darling since you have been here at LF, you are letting go of those daughters and know now that NC is the only way to go, but you are still focusing on what they have done to hurt you, FOCUS on the BLESSINGS that you HAVE.

    I know that is difficult to do and I am “preaching” as much to myself as I am to you….focusing on the BLESSINGS that I have rather than those that I don’t have.

    I had a disturbing dream last night about escaped convicts and child molesters, and it has me a bit fuddled today–I don’t have bad dreams often but that was one of them. In the end,, though, all the escaped convicts and the bad guys were caught, so at least like the last 10 minutes of a police drama it had a “happy ending” before the dog started jumping up and down on my shoulder to say “Mom, I need to go outside!”

    Hang in there Gem, keep your chin up and send those cute little things to the girls and if nothing else, it at least lets them know that you care….spread that bread on the water and count your blessings in your new adult “children” who DO care about you! (((((Hugs)))) and prayers!

  6. creampuff says:

    Hey Geminigirl….Oxy’s right about just keep on keeping on with the gifts, etc. My oldest S-path daughter never says “thank you ” for anything….if I buy her 3 little girls something it ends up in the junk heap….I am always crucified for what I don’t do and never thanked for what I do.
    If I do 100 nice things and then one thing is not to her liking…well, honey look out..!! I will be punished for months.
    But I look at it like riding a wave……sometimes you get to come up for a breath and other times you just cannot fight it…just go with the flow and hope to come up again soon…I cannot even imagine life without these 2 S-path women in my life..I love my grandgirls so much and my biggest fear is them growing up to be like their mothers….and the odds are not good,but you know like Oxy says…there is NOTHING we can do about it….but I understand your sorrow…I see other people living “normal” lives enjoying their families and grand kids without the strife and I wonder if they know how blessed they are….these S-path women will use kids as nothing but pawns..they are just tools in the S-path’s arsenal. My biggest fear is like this Casey Anthony crap…..she knew she could get back at her mother in the most cruel way possible…by dimming the light of her life forever…and see what the mother does after all that????? Supports the daughter and defends her…….it’s the same thing in my family ….the men in my S-pathic daughters lives ALWAYS cover for them…always……I hope things get better for you soon….these kind of women are just horrible to have in your family……maybe one day we will have peace…..

  7. SeeingClearly says:

    Kathleen Hawk: You have my upmost respect. Wow what a post. My mind is in overdrive. Powerful food for thought.

  8. blossom4th says:

    Another good article from the archives!But,it’ll have you shaking your head as you try to follow the reasoning,lol!

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