I admit it; I am an avid follower of any epic battle between good and evil. So, the other night found me on the couch watching an episode of Merlin on Netflix. In the episode I was watching, King Uther (not a real nice guy) was described as someone whose “hatred of magic had driven all the goodness out of his heart.”
Is that what hatred does? I wondered. Does it drive goodness out of one’s heart?
Today, we hear a lot of “hate” talk and conversations “against” ideas, policies, actions, and groups of people; I’m sure you’ve noticed. “How could those people….?” “We have to stop those people…” We hear statements like this, perhaps from our own lips. There is even the term “negative partisanship” to describe the motivation to vote because we are more against the opposing party than for our own. But what is this doing to our hearts?
There are examples in history of groups seeking to overturn a corrupt government, only to become a corrupt government themselves once they had succeeded. It seems they became more involved in the injustice they were fighting against, than the just society they were trying to put in place. In the process, goodness was being driven out of their hearts as well as their hopes for a just society.
In my personal life, the years I spent protesting and engaging in acts of civil disobedience were from a heart that longed for a kinder world. It seems, however, that somewhere along the path of my good intentions, I forgot to guard my heart, and I became more focused on what I was fighting against. As a result, I became increasingly angry as my ability to see goodness diminished.
If there is any epic battle being fought between good and evil, it is the one in our own hearts, where we can obsess on what we hate and on those we hate. It is easy to dwell on our resentments, dislikes, and irritations, but at what cost?
The thing is, where we put our attention grows. Whatever we dwell on gains energy and vitality. Every thought, every word, every action is being energized by our attention to it.
In each moment, we are either nurturing the goodness in our hearts or we are driving it out.