I think that we should entertain evil thoughts.
I think of it quite literally. If an evil thought pops up, greedy, sneaky, snarky, mean, invite it in. Bring it to the living room of your mind. Give it the most comfortable armchair and a stool for its feet, near the fire. A warm blanket, offer it coffee or a glass of wine, entertain it with kindness. In all likelihood it will be so astounded to be welcomed and warmed that it will fall asleep, disarmed, there by the fire. And you can go about your business.
The alternative is to try to refuse it entry. We are what we eat but we are not what we think. If we refuse an evil thought space, try to stuff it, it goes to the dungeon in our minds. There it grows and grows and festers, hammering on the bars. We padlock the door and put more locks, increase security, have alarms that go off if something reminds us of that evil thought. Sirens screaming, but still, some evil thoughts break free. Larger than ever and with many friends.
One therapist wrote that whenever he gets a really positive compliment or reaches a new goal, that is the dangerous time. He finds that he's most likely then to lose his temper, to behave badly. It's as if the swollen happy ego forgets to behave, forgets humility. Another therapist writes that their house rule is that whoever has had the most brilliantly successful week is the person who has to take out the garbage. This is to keep the ego in check. It reminds the ego that the world is still imperfect and the ego is too. In my house it's the catbox. I try to be mindful every day when I do this chore. There is nothing like scooping the catbox to keep the ego in check.
Who are the role models for entertaining evil thoughts?
Jesus Christ, when He went to the desert to wrestle with Satan. He was alone in the desert.
Buddha, when he sat under the Bo Tree. Mara brought demons to wrestle with him. They were his demons.
When we turn and face our demons, instead of running from them, that is where grace is. Every time I want to run from something, a thought, a feeling, that is when I try to pay attention. I try to be mindful and instead of obeying my frightened self, I turn towards the fear. I embrace it and say, "Why are you here? What do you come to teach me? I know that you are sent by the Beloved, so even though I am afraid, I will do my best to welcome you."
My daughter says that in school, most of the fights that she sees are stupid. She is in eighth grade. She says that two people will be talking. One person will say something that is not very thoughtful, or is confusing, often as they separate. The other one will think about it, take it the wrong way, get upset and be angry at the first one. The first one will then in turn be hurt and surprised, because they have no idea what they said and in fact may not remember it. She says, "Mom, it's mostly carelessness." I shake my head and agree.
Entertain your evil thoughts, for then you know where they are and what they are. They will stay small. When you bring them in to sit by the fire, you will see that they are smaller than you thought, less frightening, and even silly. You may end up laughing at how unreasonable they are. Greedy, angry, jealous, lustful, murderous, but in the end, your kindness will melt them like sugar in water. They will dissolve and you will be free.
Used in a sermon with my permission