This Dark Age

A manual for life in the modern world.

By Daniel Schwindt

We can resist inner evil even when overcome by it

We have just observed that most arguments for non-resistance have in mind its external manifestations only, since the alternative would amount to the abolition of the conscience altogether. All of us, insofar as we possess an intact conscience, experience evil and respond with some degree of resistance to its influence.

Even when we are momentarily conquered by our appetites—even when we give way to a strong passion through anger or deceit or lust—at the very same time we are often disgusted with the evil we see manipulating us, and we hate ourselves for being so weak-willed as to be overcome in this way. The same is true for moral defeats that are not momentary but on-going, as in the case of addiction, provided the addict sincerely wishes to be free of his condition.

This is not to say that everyone always feels this healthy disgust when in the presence of their own inner evil. An individual with a malformed or habitually suppressed conscience might not experience this at all. But speaking generally and in terms of the experiential norm, we can say that even when we let evil take control of our inner workings, we are simultaneously resisting it by means of a negative response of some kind, however weak this response might be.

We could illustrate the point by saying that in any war, it is wrong to conclude that the losing party did not fight at all simply because they were defeated in this or that battle.

To extend the analogy further and illustrate a related point, it is one thing to fight and to be overcome by a stronger force despite our best efforts at resistance, and quite another thing to lose by throwing down your weapons and refusing to fight in the first place, which, in the moral life, is what non-resistance would typically mean. Both examples involve defeat, both for the one who fought and the one who did not, but there is a world of difference between these two defeats, even if it is sometimes very difficult to tell, from the outside, which one we are observing in a particular case.

All of that is to say that when it comes to the moral life, the conflicts of the heart are no simple matter, and it is no argument in favor of non-resistance to observe that each and every one of us are at times (or even frequently) defeated by it.

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