Responding to Evil with Good

By  Engr. Carlos V. Cornejo

There is a wonderful story in Regina Brett’s book, “God Never Blinks” that’s worth commenting on.  It’s about forgiveness and responding to evil with good.  Regina’s friend Jane tried to make the marriage work in spite of her alcoholic husband.  Her husband tried to quit drinking, but would start again.  The cycle would go on.  He could get sober but could never stay sober.  He was a great guy when he wasn’t drunk.  He had a big heart and made the family laugh.  He wasn’t the abusive type but was guilty of neglect.  He couldn’t hold on to a job and thus couldn’t pay the bills until they ended up losing their home for good.

Finally, one day Jane left what was left of the marriage.  By the time they divorced in 1979, the kids were in their teens.  The older daughter was 17, their son 15, and their younger girl 13.  Years went by.  Their dad floated in and out of their lives.  He called the kids every few years.  He tried rehab.  He always relapsed.  Gradually, he faded completely from their lives.  Ten years passed without a visit, four years without a call.  Then the phone rang one spring.  Someone from a Parma, Ohio hospital phoned the son to locate the next of kin.

The son called his mom and told her, “Dad has terminal cancer.”  It was a sad shocking news but at the same time a strange feeling happened to Jane, all the pain and anger vanished.  Her ex-husband had no money and no family.  He’d never remarried.  He’d never seen his six grandchildren.  He was in bad shape and had been in the hospital for a week.  He had a surgery for colon cancer and was diagnosed not to last long.

She drove the hospital to see him.  She didn’t go in the room.  Jane had remarried and built a new life.  She hadn’t seen her ex-husband in 20 years and didn’t want to upset him by her presence, did not want to upset herself and not be strong for the kids.  On the drive going back home, she told the kids that she would pay for all the medical expenses.  Then she helped get their dad into a hospice.  She went with the kids every day to visit him, to be their support, but never stepped into his room.  She thought it wasn’t her place to.

In the days left of him, he and the children came together as a family again.  Resentments faded.  When they talked about the past, they only talked of the good times.  They told him they loved him—and discovered they really did.  She and the kids planned the funeral, chose the casket, picked out the flowers.  They decided there would be no wake.  They did not want to dishonor him by having hours pass with no visitors or with visitors who would ask too many questions about those lost years.

They wanted him to die in a way he didn’t get to live—with dignity.  When he passed away that June, they all found a new peace.  They were free, and so was he.  He would no longer suffer from cancer or from alcoholism.  One daughter read a poem she wrote.  The others shared happy memories.  Jane thanked everyone for coming and she paid for it all, the hospital bills, the hospice care, the funeral, the flowers.  When Regina Brett asked Jane why she went to such lengths to help a man who brought her so much pain, Jane said it was simple.  “He was their father.”   Jane did it for her children.

In some circumstances, it does not matter what’s the ultimate intention for doing good.  The important thing is to do good.  The important thing is to do good instead of responding to evil with evil or otherwise known as revenge.  St. Paul tells us, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Rom 12:21).  Responding evil with evil will not give us peace.  Many would think that revenge would extinguish their anger but will only make things worse.  Only forgiveness and rendering justice (which is a different thing from revenge) will give us peace.  Jane went beyond justice by responding with love by shouldering all the expenses.   Goodness is always more powerful than evil.  That’s why Christ answered man’s disobedience with obedience, the devil’s pride with humility.  That’s why love is the most powerful force in the world.  It is this force that Christianity uses to convert people and nations.  Oppression and violence never work.  Just look at Communism.  It cannot spread its ideology because it uses force and tyranny in making people obey.  Making others happily and willingly obey can never be attained by force or coercion but only by love.