Non-resistance to evil, as a general principle and without extensive qualification, is completely untenable and can exist only in the imagination. Even the most naïve sentimentalists do not really advocate for such a thing, and we suspect that most of the people who speak as if they do advocate it are only speaking simplistically and don’t really mean what they say. Nonetheless, since we have committed ourselves to precision, we will briefly explain why an unqualified non-resistance is absurd.
Remember that evil is experienced both internally and externally, so that it assails us as if it were an aspect of our own will and via the wills of other persons, and so non-resistance taken in a general sense would have to be applied to both orders of experience, internal and external.
Taking the world of the inner life first, what would non-resistance look like? It would mean that all temptations we encountered, all unhealthy passions we experienced, all perverse impulses we felt, were to be granted our unconditional assent and gratified more or less immediately. It would mean total surrender to whatever vicious thought beckoned. Every evil that appealed to our imperfect nature would be permitted to run its course in us and—just as importantly—run its course through us and into the world outside.
This kind of non-resistance would amount to a kind of voluntary self-corruption, since the experience of passion and temptation is a constant in life. What began as an occasional surrender and as ‘turning the other cheek’ to one’s own demons would end in conquest, since it is undeniable that habitual surrender to a passion transforms our very psyche in conformity with that passion. And since our deliberate actions in the external world are determined by our interior states, this internal perversion would spill over into our daily lives.
This last point is important: the evil we permit to infect our inner lives is by no means confined to that world but must of necessity actualize itself in our relations with others, and so again we say that any evil that takes root in us will eventually express itself through us, and becomes social. Here we can already see what will become more and more obvious throughout our discussion—that there is no such thing as purely private sin, sin that concerns no one else but the sinner.
Regarding this kind of unqualified internal non-resistance, we can ask how many people actually argue for such a thing. Some—but not many. Aside from these few psychopaths, some people speak as if they were arguing for it, but it is likely that most of them do not take their own slogans literally and are merely displaying a lack of specificity in their words. What they more often have in mind is non-resistance to external evil. We will address that in turn, but here we can conclude that it is nearly impossible to imagine anyone implementing total non-resistance in all spheres without descending immediately into madness.