Evil. What is the source of evil? For some, the answer is simple: the source of evil is the devil. For others, the answer focuses on the human being: we are evil by nature. Is our flesh what makes us sin? Deepening a little bit, it would be a mistake to think that our body, our nature, the same nature of the Son of God incarnated, is evil. It couldn’t be that way. Tomas Spidlik says “…it would be a mistake to believe that our body is evil. The body of Christ is holy and we are called to sanctify our bodies in union with Christ.”
It is the sin that we commit under genuine consent which brings evil into the world. The reality of the source of evil itself is still a mystery. Often, the temptation comes from the devil, but sometimes we just freely decide to turn away from God.
The truth is that sin is not committed by anyone but by yourself, and it is directly related with the use of liberty. The interesting thing is, that in the same way we are capable of falling into sin, we also have the tools to get away from it. But in order to get away from something, we first have to know that we are trapped and how we got caught. And this is often not so obvious.
How does sin work?
“Everyone possesses his or her own Paradise; it is the heart created by God, the heart in a peaceful state. Every person also experiences the snake which in the form of an evil thought enters into the heart in order to lure us.”
To answer this, we need to analyze the story of the first sin: the one committed by Adam and Eve. The snake comes to Paradise and with its games, lies and seductions convinces Eve. The snake knew Eve, and in the same way, the very astute devil knows us. He knows our weaknesses and how we think. We also have to know these things about ourselves.
The Mechanism of Sin
1. Suggestion. The snake suggests an idea to Eve.
Our heart is a paradise and in the same way the snake entered the paradise without Adam or Eve noticing it, it enters our heart. Seductively it puts a thought in Eve’s mind: “Is it true that God does not allow you to eat from the tree of paradise?” This first idea comes into Eve’s mind and, helped by her imagination and fantasy, she may think: “I want to eat from all the trees of paradise. I would like to eat from those that are banned.” The gateway to sin is a simple thought. This does not mean that all our thoughts lead us to sin, but it can start there.
At this stage, there is no sin yet. There are only thoughts that may be insistent. Likewise it happens to us. A thought enters our mind repeatedly. They are like flies that bother us more and more every time they can. These are not sin itself; if we can ignore them, they will leave. It often happens that we don’t ignore them and they become more insistent.
2. Conversation. You cannot dialogue with temptation.
Instead of ignoring her thoughts, Eve starts to dialogue with the snake: “Yes, He allows us to eat from all the trees but that one.” The snake finds a window and shows Eve another idea that she finds good and irresistible: “You will be like gods…” There hasn’t been sin until this point, but starting to dialogue with temptation is dangerous. How many times we start talking with temptation! How much time and energy we spend giving it space in our lives.
“After a long conversation the thought nests in the heart and cannot be easily repudiated.” Tomas Spidlik
Eve continues to dialogue with the snake and tries to say they are fine without that fruit, but the snake’s argument is convincing. Eve knows what she should not do, but still knowing it, she does it. The struggle is to resist committing this evil. We can freely decide not to do the things that we desire. Unfortunately, in this case, Eve is convinced by the snake’s idea; she wants to be like God. Even knowing that God does not want that, she tries the fruit from the banned tree. At this stage, sin is committed. The battle is lost. We freely choose to do the evil that we abhor and lose Paradise.
4. The passion that kidnaps our liberty
“Whoever succumbs to evil thoughts, often little by little weakens his own character. In this way, an attraction to sin develops, which can become so strong that it is almost impossible to face it.” Tomas Spidlik
Eve succumbs to the desire to try the fruit of the banned tree and becomes the slave of her decision. She has lost paradise because she couldn’t resist trying the fruit that attracts her so much. That is the final stage and the most tragic one. In the same way we fall again and again, to the point where it becomes harder to get up fall after fall.
5. Communication of sin
Eve’s sin did not remain only on her. Eve gives Adam the forbidden fruit so he can taste it too. The same dynamic that happened between Eve and the snake, repeats with Adam, and he falls. In the same way that Eve didn’t sin alone, we don’t sin alone either. As tiny as our sin can be, it always has consequences for others. The evil communicates and brings more harm.
6. Shame and guilt to sin
After eating the fruit, Adam and Eve realize that they are naked, so they feel ashamed. This shame reflects the loss of union with God. The feeling of guilt destroys them and makes them accuse each other. In the same way, sin causes that in us: after we realize the evil we have done, the guilt comes, that instead of compensating evil, it leads us to keep going away from God more and more if we don’t humbly accept our faults and ask for forgiveness.
Knowing how sin operates in our lives, we can give it a good fight. It is essential to be aware of our actions. The examination of conscience is not simply to think about what we have done wrong during the day, but to recognize how we think and how those thoughts lead us to act.