I remember reading something a few years back that I still need to remind myself that there is no advantage to learning all about evil. The verse is out of the Wisdom of Jesus Son of Sirach a.k.a. Ecclesiasticus: The knowledge of wickedness is not wisdom, neither at any time the counsel of sinners prudence. When we learn evil or rotten things, we do not achieve wisdom in knowing these things. Some of the evil we see or hear we cannot avoid, but that which we can avoid is better not to know. The only reason to know evil is to know enough not to be involved in it.For many years, I have been studying conspiracy theories and so with every new thing that I discovered, some other rotten thing would raise its ugly head. It's one thing keeping track of all of it, but now what am I going to do with all this knowledge? What do I get out of it? What good does it do for me to know all of it? So was knowing all about these evil things benefiting me in any way? Is there any benefit to me of documenting every turd in the cesspool? I'd go from one meeting to another learning all kinds of things that have no practical value. Evil is evil and there's really no benefit to knowing anything of it other than to stay away from it.
I think it would be more beneficial to the reader for me to share some of the things that I was able to learn while I was on my sabbatical with Club Fed. What appeared to be a disaster--in a lot of ways it was--became a very productive learning experience. I had to adjust to everything as my life was completely different.
A big step in my learning occurred at the above verse. Realizing that there is no wisdom in the knowledge of evil, lifted a big burden off of my mind. It seems that just viewing things that are evil will completely distort the mind. And if the mind is consistently exposed to lies, then the mind cannot operate properly because the information that is within that mind is wrong and distorted. This is why we have so many problems as we don't know the correct information in order to make any intelligent and righteous decisions. So rather than listing to the nonsense, I try to shut it out and not pay attention to it. If we make decisions about anything with the distorted information, then we will drive ourselves nuts trying to make any sense of it. There are so many sources for the intake of evil that I have to be careful in what I do so that I can keep my mind free from it. I found that being isolated in a jail for long periods of time was actually a benefit to me because there was less nonsense for me to endure. Being isolated for long periods gave me time to use my mind in a proper fashion because it wasn't distracted by a bunch of false information.
I wanted to use the prison experience for my own benefit, and so I made it a point to readjust my thinking in a way that was more rational. My opinion about things stayed about the same but how I deal with them has changed dramatically. I soon realized that things that are stupid and evil cannot be fixed, so it doesn't make any sense to try to repair something that cannot be fixed. In addition, it doesn't make any sense to learn any more of something that I can't do anything about under the circumstance. Rather than frustrate myself, I simply began to stand aloof from those things that I thought were evil.
So I turned inward and decided that I would try to improve myself by obtaining virtues that I didn't have --knowing that anything that I did in this area was going to be a benefit to me. If I can't do too much about the evil of other people, I certainly could do something to improve my own character by learning and implementing virtues that will produce good things rather than evil. When I pay attention to the details and actually build up my own character by learning virtues, I always benefit from it and I am never disappointed.
One of the most beneficial things I have learned is patience. I never have very much of it. I was never taught how to be patient. It's one thing for someone to say: be patient, the problem for most of us is that we never learned how to be patient. The best instruction I have received was from an article by the early Christian writer called Tertullian. I carefully studied the principles in this article that gave me the tools to acquire patience. I can always do better, but at least I now know what I should be doing.
If patience is of God; then impatience is of the Devil. Tertullian says that patience is "the pilot of peace". And for me, this was an important lesson I had learned because by learning this I was able to get a handle on the torment inflicted by evil people. I am able to manage it by allowing myself to stand out of the way and let God take the revenge.
Evil people enjoy the pain of others; that's just the way they are and they enjoy the torment and the chaos that their evil brings upon a man. The problem good people have is that it seems that they have to act like the evil people if they retaliate. If I am provoked into a fight with someone and I take the bait, then I am just as guilty as the one who provoked me. So then, it is much better to simply remain quiet and let the provoker spin his wheels.
For example: When I was in prison, I had a cell mate who took issue with something that I told him and he wanted to fight. I had just finished this article and I chose not to respond to his provocations. He would continue to bait me for about two to three weeks trying to get me to take the first swing. He would start babbling and I wouldn't respond with one word; I wouldn't respond with one action. I simply remained quiet, which was very difficult for someone like myself. I would ask myself what benefit would I get if I pounded on him. I would probably break my knuckles, get in even more trouble, and then I would get another few years for assaulting someone. There was no benefit in it for me, but there was a lot of physical and spiritual risk.
What happened is even more amazing. This guy really hated my guts. In a way, I was inflicting more pain on him because of my silence and patience. But somewhere along the line his attitude towards me changed. He started to become respectful, engaged in small talk, and even helped me help a friend who needed some paperwork done. By the time this guy was released, he was treating me with respect and all of the other nonsense was avoided. I was shocked by how well this worked. It showed me the value and power of virtue over evil. Indeed, Tertullian's saying about patience being the pilot of peace is not only true, but it works. It worked to my benefit. Patience is more powerful than evil. Evil is weak; patience is strong. This was something that I saw with my own eyes. That lesson learned made up for the 5years and 2 months I was in prison.
Rather than trying to fix evil, I think it is best to separate from it. This takes patience, but it can be done. The evil will destroy itself, just by the very nature of its character. I don't have to do anything. I can see the value of letting God take revenge. If I do it, then I may not give out enough or I may give out too much. God is the one who knows how much revenge a man will get. Since all of us need a place for repentance and forgiveness, it would be wrong to kill someone as their chance for repentance has been taken away. And I think this is why God lets things go for so long because there is always that chance for repentance. God's patience is eternal.
"Evil is impatience of good." So that when we try to learn about more evil we don't get any good out of it. The course of action would seem to be that it would be better to separate from it and let it rot under its own corruption. The better choice would be to learn how to be patient.
In the case I just mentioned, I exercised my patience by keeping my mouth shut and by keeping my hands to myself. I simply withdrew from the evil and I got a good result. I let the evil wear itself out. In this case, the revenge was that the man was unhappy because he couldn't get me to retaliate, but his unhappiness and pain could be considered the revenge; but God did it, not me. All I had to do was to remain silent and do nothing. I do admit that it took a little getting used to but I was able to get it done in this case.
There is very little instruction that I am aware of in any of the scriptures. Tertullian, a prolific writer of the ante-Nicean Christian church did a good job in describing patience and so far it is the best writing I could find on this subject. I know that most of what he wrote is true because I used it the way he stated it. It works.
To continue to study the evil in government, religion, and media upsets the mind and the spirit and there is no good to come from the knowledge. Once it is identified as evil--as on the foundation of an oath--its serves no purpose in learning anymore of it. It would be better to spend the time to learn how to be patient.
I will be posting more on virtues and things we can do to improve our character and make our lives more useful to ourselves and to the God who created us.
Walter Allen Thompson has a new book called Natural Law: The True Supreme Law of the Land