Do not be conquered by evil, but conquer evil with good

This book was an exciting read, and I read it in one day. One thing I liked about the book is the action started right from the beginning, and all the necessary backstory was told in flashbacks, so no time was wasted building up to the plot. The story is about a teen girl named Emily. Her best friend, Lizzy, died from cancer. Around the anniversary of Lizzy’s death, her parents and younger sister kidnap Emily. They hold her in a small room with no windows until she agrees to pretend to be Lizzy by dying her hair, wearing contacts, answering to her name, and acting like her in any way possible. They tell Emily they will kill her mother if she doesn’t comply, showing videos of her mother often, so she knows they have access to her. They also make her write emails to her family, claiming to be a runaway.

While the entire family plays a role in Emily’s kidnapping, Lizzy’s mom is the main instigator of these crimes. It was interesting to analyze this character because she is incapable of recognizing the suffering of others. In her mind, she had the worst possible suffering, the loss of a child. Thus, she refuses to acknowledge other’s suffering or believes they deserve their pain as it could never measure up to what she has to endure. She thinks she has the right to do evil and cause pain and suffering because of the injustice of losing her daughter. She feels justified in her evil actions. She believes she is allowed to do evil because some wrong had been done to her. We see this often in society, where people justify their evil deeds because it is a response to an evil done to them or some injustice.

As sinful humans, we do not know-how

“to discern the often narrow path between the cowardice which gives in to evil, and the violence which under the illusion of fighting evil only makes it worse.”

CCC 1889

The truth is everyone will suffer in this life. That is a given. However, one can easily look at humanity and see the uneven distribution of suffering. Some suffer significantly while others in minor ways. Some have theirs in places easy to recognize while others only God sees. Regardless of how we suffer or the magnitude of our suffering, we all will suffer, and it is impossible to compare our sufferings.

A man’s suffering is similar to the behavior of a gas. If a certain quantity of gas is pumped into an empty chamber, it will fill the chamber completely and evenly, no matter how big the chamber. Thus suffering completely fills the human soul and conscious mind, no matter whether the suffering is great or little. Therefore the “size” of human suffering is absolutely relative.

Viktor Frankl – Man’s Search for Meaning,

Given that we know we will suffer, and this suffering is all-encompassing, it is best to have a strategy. Our response should never be one that causes more suffering, as this is a recipe for perpetual misery in society.

In regards to this book and what I would discuss with my children, I would point out how Lizzy’s mom didn’t know how to handle her suffering, and in turn, she only caused a lot of suffering to a lot of people in this book. If we continue to spread misery, we end with a world only full of pain and suffering. The only way to conquer this is through love. As a Catholic, I would direct them to meditate on the 7 sorrows of Mary. Focus on how she handled these situations in her life, especially watching her innocent son carry the cross, the crucifixion, and his death. She was there the entire time trusting in God’s plan for humanity.

Look to God’s Word for guidance on how to act when tempted to repay evil with evil.

Let love be sincere; hate what is evil, hold on to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; anticipate one another in showing honor. Do not grow slack in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, endure in affliction, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the holy ones, exercise hospitality. Bless those who persecute [you], bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Have the same regard for one another; do not be haughty but associate with the lowly; do not be wise in your own estimation. Do not repay anyone evil for evil; be concerned for what is noble in the sight of all. If possible, on your part, live at peace with all. Beloved, do not look for revenge but leave room for the wrath; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’ Rather, ‘if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals upon his head.’ Do not be conquered by evil, but conquer evil with good.

Rom 12:9-21

Finally, understand and study the Catholic concept of ‘redemptive suffering,” which focuses on uniting our sufferings with Christ’s death. I have blogged about suffering in my discussion on The Giver.