Evil – Is Wickedness Natural or Learned?

Some people are just born bad.   Have you ever heard that saying before?  I don’t know where I heard it.  Maybe it was a horror movie or maybe it was watching the news about a serial killer like Jeffrey Dahmer.  But recently I’ve been asking the question, where does evil come from?  Is it taught or is it learned?  Are bad people a victim of circumstance?  The show Criminal Minds would lead you to believe that evil is something you are born with and it’s just waiting for the right trigger to turn you from an average person into a chainsaw wielding maniac.  But are some people more misunderstood than evil?

I recently finished reading the book Wicked.  I haven’t seen the play and having read the book find it hard to believe you could write a musical about such a tragedy.  The story about the wicked witch of the west, paints a picture of a child from birth who is different.  Someone whose mind thinks differently and whose physical appearance seems to match the different way in which she sees the world.  Obviously by the books end she has become the wicked witch, but the story tells how she did so almost against her will.  It was not who she was, but how society treated her.  But are we all capable of that?  At some point couldn’t we all embrace our wickedness as who we are?

It’s always bothered me when people talk about our sinful nature.  I’ve never truly understood it.  Why would we naturally be prone to sin?  If that were the case, why even try to be good?  If it’s who I am, and I’m “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Ps139:13) how can it be wrong?  Furthermore, if sin is in our nature and we’re created in God’s image (Gen 1:27) does that mean sin is in God’s nature?  

So is wickedness known from our nature, or is it taught?

When you start making statements like “He’s just a bad kid, his momma knew it before he was born”, you find the true beginning of evil.  Like the co-worker who goes on a shooting spree and the news crew starts interviewing people, they inevitably say “We all knew there was something wrong with him”.  Really?  So is that why you alienated him and maybe even bullied him a little?  Evil is nurtured.  Just like the happy go lucky person who you want to hang out with, someone whose demeanor is more sullen draws you to the conclusion their murky and unfriendly.  We take the steps to avoid them and treat them as outcasts. 

In the book of Hebrews Paul writes “Who is man… that you made him a little lower than the Angels” (Heb. 2:6-7).  But then Jesus told the Pharisees “you belong to your father, the devil” (Jn 8:44).  So are we sons and daughters of God, created a little lower than angels, or are we devil’s spawn?

Right before Jesus calls the Pharisees sons of the devil, he lays out how they would have been known as sons of God.  By their actions.  “If you were sons of my father, you would love me” (Jn 8:43).  Evil and wickedness are a choice.  If it were natural, then wickedness would be the more common form of humanity and goodness would be the oddity.  Sometimes though, like the wicked witch of the west, I see that choice being made for someone.  Society treats them in such a way they feel trapped and find no way to out except to accept what they have been forced into.  Like Olive in the movie “Easy A” you embrace what everything thinks you’ve become, not who you truly are.

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