By Diane Donovan-Vaughn – Sermon 6/23/2018

My friend would talk about trainings he attended as a police officer. At one particular training to help the officers find out if they had Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from the work they had been doing, the instructor said he would write a couple of words on the board and depending on their reaction to those words, they would know if they had PTSD. My friend said that the instructor wrote the words, “boy scout leader” and then he looked at me. I said, “So we both have PTSD then.” We both immediately thought the word pedophile.

When you encounter evil over and over, you begin to see it where others do not. It happened again the first time I was in an Apple store with my grandchildren. While my daughter and grandchildren looked at the technology and enjoying themselves, I was scoping out the people around the children, looking for evil.

It only takes a very short time of interacting with evil to become vigilant for it. The first year of my internship, I encountered it every day. Abuse stories walk into the office every day. I am in a deep relationship with evil. In fact, it makes us a bit jaded about our family’s problems, about whining and complaining in some ways.

Evil is a form of suffering. Suffering is relative. Your suffering is as bad you know. That others suffer more does not diminish yours but it can put it into perspective and increase your ability to have compassion. Having compassion for evil is really just about having compassion for yourself and your own desire to force reality to give you what you think you deserve or need. Evil is often thought of as out there in the world, not inside you. However, evil is inside everyone to some extent or another.

What is evil anyway? It is fear in the worst form. It is lack in its saddest manifestation. It controls the person who owns it and abuses those around it. No one is safe in its presence and everyone is affected by the belief in it. If you are asleep, you may forget about it and you may think it is real. It is a powerful and scary creation of the mind. If you try control or destruction, it can seduce you to evil. In other words, you can very easily become the evil you fight. Give it attention and it grows. Ignore it and it flourishes. What is the solution?

Focus on the solution but first observe that the evil you perceive on the outside of you is the evil on the inside of you. If you spend all your time looking outside yourself and fighting evil, then you will never find a way out.

The solution for evil according to A Course in Miracles starts with the idea that evil is sort of insanity and that the world is insane. We might all agree that the world is insane but can we understand that we are creating that insane world by seeing it? The ego creates evil and all the various qualities of evil such as judgment, fear, hatred, lack, revenge, self-righteousness, trauma and more. Think about the seven deadly sins of pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath and sloth. These sins are ones that our ego believes will fulfill its emptiness because the ego is a slave to the body and believes this world it creates is one of lack and causes us fear. Fear leads to evil because in our attempt to correct what we fear, we give it the power to hurt us.

Here is one of the corrections for sin or evil that that A Course in Miracles offers:

“I must have decided wrongly, because I am not at peace.

I made the decision myself, but I can also decide otherwise.

I want to decide otherwise, because I want to be at peace.

I do not feel guilty, because the Holy Spirit will undo all the

consequences of my wrong decision if I will let Him.

I choose to let Him, by allowing Him to decide for God for me.”

Text, Chapter 5 [This passage is sometimes called “the Course in miniature”]

When I was looking up A Course in Miracles quote, I found several references online about how A Course in Miracles is evil and teaches something akin to Christian blasphemy. Evil is often in the mind of the beholder. Turning your power over to the mind and survival system is turning your life over to fear and lack. Turning your power over to a higher self or higher power is turning your life over to love.

When I was young and believed that God was punishing me for my so-called sins or evil as defined by religions, my therapist asked me a simple question. She said, “Diane do you believe in a punishing God or a loving God and if you believe that God would punish you in this way, then why would you choose to worship such a vindictive deity?” She changed my life that day because from that time forward, I have only worshipped a loving God. Fortunately, I had already read A Course in Miracles and was attempting to wake up to love as the only reality. However, I was still asleep in many ways believing my punishment and fear.

Today’s compassion lesson and practice from <em>A Year of Living with more Compassion – 52 Quotes and Weekly Compassion Practices </em>(Edited by Richard Fields) Selection 45 (pp. 136-137) is by Christine A. Courtois, PhD, ABPB who chose this quote by Kathy Steel. (“Sitting With the Shattered Soul,” Pilgrimage: Journal of Psychotherapy and Personal Exploration, 1989, 15.(6), p.24)

Steele said, “So how do you sit with a shattered soul? Gently, with gracious and deep respect. Patiently, for time stands still for the shattered, and the momentum of healing will be slow at first. With the tender strength that comes from an openness to your own deepest wounding, and to your own deepest healing. Firmly, never wavering in the utmost conviction that evil is powerful, but there is a good that is more powerful still. Stay connected to that Goodness with all your being, however it manifests itself to you. Acquaint yourself with the shadows that lie deep within you. And then, open yourself, all that is you, to the Light. Give freely. Take in abundantly. Find your safety, your refuge, and go there as you need. Hear what you can, and be honest about the rest: be honest at all cost. Words won’t always come; sometimes there are no words in the face of such tragic evil. But in your willingness to be with them, they will hear you, from soul to soul they will hear that for which there are no words.”

Let’s practice:

Take a deep breath and relax. Inhale through the nose and exhale through the mouth. Take a couple of deep breaths and place your attention inside your mind, inside your thoughts, inside your own evil. Find your fears, your deadly sins of pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath and sloth. Find the voice that excuses or convicts you of evil. Notice the excuses you make for why you are justified to choose fear, judgment, and evil. Notice the excuses you make for focusing on the sins or evil of others as you forget that what you see is what is inside your own beliefs. Notice the tension you feel when you focus on sin and evil. Notice the fear. You are inside a matrix or nightmare of the mind.

Now, take a couple of deep breaths, in through the nose and out through the mouth. Place your attention on the center of your heart, in the place where you and God are one, the place where peace and love dwells. Here is the place where you are awake. Now look out of your heart at a world where only love exists and send that love to your ego and your mind, much like you would send it to anyone who is suffering. Allow love to permeate your breath, your life and allow love to bring you to the peace that is always present inside you. The world that God sees is love and light. See as God sees.