(Definition of wrongdoing: the act or an instance of doing something immoral or illegal; wrong, evil, or blameworthy behavior.)
A friend wrote to me about an unfair situation she had witnessed and how it had made her so angry it almost felt it was burning her on the inside. She asked how to deal more intelligently with such situations without losing herself.
It is for sure a very interesting subject, one that is quite close to me. Since I was very young, unfair behavior was something that made my blood boil and I have spent lots of time trying to understand it. Even though I know many more things now, I still find it a challenge not to become emotional when I see it. So, whatever I write here, I write it also for myself.
There are two different aspects to wrongdoing. The first one is about desires and the second one is about justifying those desires.
1. About Desires
Any time I open my eyes and look at the world, I see two different things.
First, I have the inborn vision of the world of nature, of harmony, of what is, and then, often appearing almost at the same time, I see the world of ‘my needs’, of ‘what I can get in relation to what I am seeing’.
For example, when I see a person I see a human being, nature and, at the same time, I see (in my mind) what this person can offer, what I can get out of this person.
In order to see the world of nature, of natural harmony, to see the world as it is, and to open a gap between seeing nature and seeing my needs, I need to have a certain space in the mind, a certain quietness, peace, a certain balance in myself. But what disturbs that peace, what creates the lack of space in the mind, are exactly my desires and needs. What creates the noise in the mind is the desire to get, to possess or control the object that I am seeing.
To be able to see the world as it is, without my own needs blinding me, I need to have a space in the mind—and this space is created when there is a strong sense of connection with myself. When this connection is alive, I am not so dependent, so needy of the outside world. I don’t need the world to validate me, I am my own validation. But without this connection, if I feel empty inside, I am completely dependent on the outside world for my contentment, for my validation, for my happiness. And my needs—my desires—become very powerful.
And so, to say it one more time, at any moment when I open my eyes and see the world, I will see the natural order of whatever object or person I am seeing and, almost at the same time, I will see my own needs in relation to that object or person.
Now, it could very well be that the nature of the object or person I am seeing and my needs for it are in harmony with each other. No problem there.
But what happens when my needs go against the essence of the object or person I am seeing? What happens when they go against its natural order? What will I do when this happens? Will I follow my desire or will I follow my vision of nature?
It will depend on how strong my desires are.
We know that desire is a very powerful force inside ourselves. Often it is so strong that we become slaves to it. All the destructive patterns in our lives, from eating an extra piece of chocolate cake to hurting something or somebody else, can be traced back to an uncontrollable desire inside of ourselves.
Wrongness is the consequence of a desire that goes against the natural order and is more powerful than the vision of that natural order. In other words, I can see the needs, the nature of the object or person I am seeing, but the desire for that object or person simply becomes overwhelming.
2. About Justifying Desires
What allows desire to manifest is the fact that my life is not made out of truth, but out of my own beliefs.
In my own understanding, which is different from the common belief, there are no bad, evil people. If this is true, if wrongdoing is not done by bad people, who is it done by?
At any moment, whatever beliefs I have become my reality. Because of this, when an overwhelming desire appears, it will emote reason to create a justification for that desire. (Although this is not easy to see, it is important to understand that desire is ALWAYS prior to its explanation, and not the other way around*. The reason for desire is always in the past, deeply hidden in the subconscious.)
When a wrongdoing is done (unless there is a psychological disturbance, in which case that becomes the reason for it, and not evil), it is always based on a strong desire justified by a reasonable argument… at least reasonable for that person at that particular time.
We never do anything outside of our reason (again, unless there is a psychological disturbance). Even if, looking from the outside, an action seems obviously unreasonable, in that moment, for the particular person doing the action, it will be justified by a reasonable argument.
– For example, one can justify killing another person by saying to oneself: The world will be better without that person. Or: It is for the good of all. Or: I am on a mission from God. These arguments allow me to do what I want to do without feeling guilty, without the feeling that I am a bad person or at least with the feeling that although what I am doing may not be completely all right, it is still correct given the circumstances.
– One can justify cheating on one’s spouse by saying to oneself something like: If he/she cannot satisfy me I need to take care of myself. Or: I cannot miss this opportunity. Or: God put her/him on my way.
– One can justify parking his/her car in a wrong place by saying to oneself: I am late and I don’t think it will really hurt anybody. Or: Everybody does it, so why not me. Or: What I need to do is too important.
– One can justify destroying a whole forest in order to build a mall by saying to oneself: I need the money so I can protect my family. Or: There are so many trees, if I cut these it will not really make a difference. Or: Progress is necessary.
And the interesting thing about all these justifications is that at their own level, they can all very well be true. That is why they work. They stop being true ONLY when one is able to see them from a larger perspective. This is the only way for a justification to be seen for what it is.
The only problem with this is that unless one actually gets this larger perspective, one does not know that it exists. And so at any particular moment when one is giving a justification, one is simply not aware of that larger picture. That is why the justifications work.
And that is why it is so difficult to change wrongdoing; because, at the moment when it is being committed, one could say that the person doing it is blind. He/she is blind to the larger, higher reality that is there, but is not seen. The person is blind because he/she only sees a small aspect of the whole.
So, how to deal with wrongdoing? At any moment when one is in the presence of it, one can try to do whatever is in one’s reach to change the situation. For most people, there is usually very little that can be done—although some people may find the power and the ability to actually make a difference.
But in both cases, while feeling the impotency of not being able to do anything, or while feeling the power of being able to do something, one needs to keep the vision that wrongdoing is happening because of blindness. There is no evil, there are no bad people, and so anger, hatred, bitterness are not necessary. Of course these emotions often appear, but the reason for them is that we ourselves are blind to the truth and instead believe that there’s intention behind wrongdoing. That is, one can become blind to the blindness.
When we see wrongdoing—and because we have an inbuilt mechanism for seeing truth (the fact that every time we see the world, we are seeing its natural order, its beauty, its harmony)—it creates pain.
But when we are able to see that wrongdoing comes from blindness, and not from intention, we have the opportunity to transform pain into presence, that is, into the ability to embrace the world as it is, the moment as it is.
Because we live in a duality, everything that exists has its ups and its downs. Of course we all know very well the down of wrongdoing, but what is it’s’ up? It is that with true understanding, it has the potential to take us to presence; to take us to the only place where duality ends: it can take us to Love.
*As an example, I remember hearing about a study in which researches put people under hypnosis and gave them the post-hypnotic suggestion to untie their shoes when they heard a certain word. After hypnosis, and while talking to them, they slipped this word into the conversation. The subject bent over and untied his shoes. Then the researches asked him why he did that, and the person always gave a reasonable answer.