Synopsis: What is thinking evil; the strikingly harmful psychology of thinking evil for individuals and love relationships; score keeping’s corrosive problems; and an interpretation enrichment puzzle flows from; in and about Paul’s ninth tenant about the nature of love.
What Is Thinking Evil ?Do you know how to think no evil? That is the first part of Paul’s ninth tenet about the nature of love. Do you have clear ideas about what thinking evil might really mean? The second part has to do with keeping score as many people call it. Do you keep a count, or score, on who has wronged you, hold grudges, plan or fantasize revenge, hope or pray for bad things to happen to those you oppose?
Do you obsess or enjoy thinking about things that cause harm and destruction? Do you think evil of yourself? Do you think evil thoughts about loved ones you get frustrated with, irritated with, angry at or feel hurt and/or betrayed by? Do you harbor hateful thoughts toward friends, relatives, close family, children or people of any other love relationship (see “A Dozen Kinds of Love to Have in Your Life”)? How about groups or classes of people (see “Love Against Bigotry”)? Are these the kind of things Paul meant when he was inspired to give us this teaching about love? Do you agree with the idea that real love does not cause, motivate or lead us to evil thinking? What actually is evil?
To this mental health professional, evil is that which is anti-healthful to individuals and/or to groups of people including everything from two-person relationships to societies at large. Others have different ideas. I often have wondered if originally all morals and ethics eventually related back to primitive guesses about individual and societal health issues, one way or another. Is evil really that which is sick, malignant, life harmful and destructive, psycho-bio-socially dysfunctionally corrupting and, therefore, ultimately in opposition to human survival? I am sure many ethicists, moralists and others might tell you differently. So, what do you understand the meaning of good and evil to be? And what do you think about how thinking evil may be influencing you and the relationships of your own personal world?
The Psychology of Thinking Evil and the Harm It DoesIn psychology, evil thinking can be seen as a form, or subcategory, of negative thinking. Both for individuals and relationships, filling your thoughts and/or focusing too much on the negative, the destructive and the harmful can and does negatively impact our psychological and physical health. It also can have a strikingly corrosive effect on your way of relating to others and usually in the way others reactively relate with you. Such negative thinking has been shown actually to be able to shorten your life. How? Essentially by causing your biology to frequently make and circulate damaging stress hormones through you, along with triggering the biochemistry of mounting anxiety, fear states and toxic tension. All of that makes for heart attacks, strokes, the development of poor health habits and increased addictions susceptibility.
Relationally, those who spend too much mental time and energy on the negative often become less positive, less cooperative and less happy with those they have love for. Furthermore, suspiciousness, fearfulness, over cautiousness and compulsive safety consciousness may occur and tend to limit or dampen co-experiencing fun, adventuresomeness, sexuality and loving interactions (see “Removing Your Hidden Blocks to Receiving Love Fully” and “Love in the Fridge”).
It is important to note that thinking about evil and thinking evil are two different things. This is especially true emotionally. Thinking evil thoughts, and enjoying it, is believed to be addictive as well as being erosively destructive. Being agonized over thinking evil thought is not only painful but usually unproductive. Being tortured by, or obsessed with, evil thoughts is pathological and often in need of the help of a good mental health professional.
Relationally, there appears to be a connection between thinking a lot of evil and/or negative thoughts and increases in couples and families having angry fights and episodes of domestic violence. Also, there seems to be a correlation between negative thinking and the depletion of the brain’s production of the neurochemistry needed for processing happiness and loving feelings. Furthermore, in close relationships, feelings of frustration, irritability, anxiety and depression seem to have a circular, cause and result, cyclical dynamic with cognitive negativity.
What Does Keeping Score Do to Us ?Paul made a special point of telling us love is not about thinking a lot about wrongs done. Psychologically and relationally, this is a good idea because it helps keep us from being repeatedly impacted by the bad of the past, more able to be focused on the good of the now and the possible good of the future where progress is possible. Perhaps even more important, keeping score gets in the way of the freedom that forgiveness provides us, the creating of reconciliation and the opportunity of fresh starts. Awareness of what has gone wrong can be useful so as to learn from it and behave more cautiously and successfully in the future. Otherwise, not so much.
However, millions of people have been so hurt in love gone wrong experiences they never again try love relating. Hence, they suffer love malnutrition and starvation along with its life destructive effects. The question then becomes how to keep moving forward toward healthy, real love but with sufficient safety precautions. That is one of the many places a good, love knowledgeable counselor or therapist can be of considerable help.
Individually, being obsessed with wrongs done, defeats, betrayals, losses, unfairness, mistakes, etc., rather than just learning from those experiences and doing better, can have very detrimental effects. Interestingly, this turns out to be especially true for our immunity mechanisms. Seeking vengeance, getting even, planning revenge, holding grudges, etc. is definitely a prescription for self and relationship sabotage. Thus think no evil and keep no score of wrongs is a pretty good prescription for mental, emotional and relational health.
Interpretation Enrichment PuzzlesI like to suggest the more you can study different scholarly-based translations of a writing in a different language, the more you may deepen and broaden your understanding of that writing. Different interpretations can help you better see the wider understandings, applications and possibilities of what was perhaps meant in any original. Studying the original language also can be a great help. However, that will not necessarily give the right or true meaning because words in every language are always at least slowly altering over time and location. They differ as to common usage, exact definition and connotation. These variations then create an ever-changing need for variations of translation.
Especially, does all this apply to this ninth tenant of Paul’s teaching on love. Paul is understood to have written in ancient biblical Greek “ou logizetal to kakon”. This usually gets translated into English at least two different ways and sometimes both. Way one usually reads something like “love thinks no evil”, or “love thinks not evil”; other variations exist such as “love does not impute evil”, “love is not of an evil mind” and “love does not cause evil thoughts”.
Way two usually gets interpreted something like “love does not keep an account of wrongs”, “ love keeps no score of wrongdoing”, “love does not take into account wrongs suffered”, “wrongdoing is not scored by love”, etc. Other variations include “love does not brood over wrongs”, “does not keep a record of complaints”, “does not keep track of other people’s wrongs”, “does not keep score of sins”, “keeps no resentful score of things wrong”, and “keeps no account for getting even or blaming”, etc.
I was advised that fully 16 of the most popular New Testament translations do not include part one – the “think no evil” interpretation and that at least an equal number of other translation efforts do not include part two – the “keeps no count or score” part. Furthermore, I have been instructed that there are quite a few other learned and popular approaches that do include both parts one and two.
Why this big difference? I don’t really know except to say translators vary a lot on this question. Interpretation scholars also are known to have rather different ways of trying to get ancient words and meanings across into contemporary English understandings while also attempting to be as accurate as possible.
I have including part one and two here not because of biblical scholarship but rather because as a mental health and relational therapist both parts seem quite useful for health and well-being I hope you may find them so in your life and in your love relationships.
As always – Go and Grow with Love
Dr. J. Richard Cookerly
Quotable Question: Do you think it’s true that how a person thinks about love is how they become about love, and how they don’t think about love is how they don’t become concerning love?