A meditation on the line between good and evil that runs through each person.
In any polarized situation, the overriding human tendency is to draw a line with oneself and one’s allies on the good side and the opposing party on the wicked side, with very little attempt made by either side to understand the other. As these positions harden, it becomes almost impossible to achieve the insight necessary for a breakthrough.
For some years now I have kept a file that I call “The Line Runs Through.” This title is from Václav Havel, former president of the Czech Republic and one of those who resisted the Communists and was put in prison for his activities. When he came to power after the “Velvet Revolution,” Havel was conspicuously forgiving toward his former enemies and other collaborators. Some blamed him for this, but he maintained his position. In the central European regimes of the ’70s and ’80s, Havel said, “The line [between good and evil] did not run clearly between ‘them’ and ‘us,’ but through each person.”
The line between good and evil runs through each person. These words find an echo in Paul’s letter to the Romans: “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. … I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin which dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand” (7:15–21, RSV throughout). Is there anyone who does not recognize this?
The human being is in the grip of impulses that are more powerful than our wish to do good. Our Lord wants us to …