In the mid 1980’s a psychiatrist, Scott M. Peck published a couple of books that made a big splash in self-help and personal growth circles. The first was, “The Road Less Traveled” and the second was “People of the Lie.” The latter was about the subject of evil and I personally think that he probably got carried away to label some of the people in his book as “evil.” I think he was guilty of the error of many clinicians, the tendency to wield the diagnostic label too readily. Yes, I do think there are evil people in the world but then there are the rest of us who are constitutionally wired to be “people of the lie” in that we present a face to the community that is not reflective of what lies beneath the surface. As Goethe noted, “The heart has its beastly little treasures” but most of us are so scared of the “beastly” that we hide behind a sanitized persona. C’est moi!
But Donald Trump is an unabashed liar. I hesitate to call him “evil” but I do think he has that capacity if my nation, apparently a “nation of sheep” will empower him. He cannot tell the truth even on the simplest level; for, if the “truth” impugns his tenuous sense of self-worth, he merely resorts to brazen lies. There are so many examples such as declaring that the National Football League had conspired with Hillary Clinton re the schedule of the debates. The next day the NFL denied any communication with him on this manner and Trump merely refused to address the issue. In the last debate, Clinton reminded him of an egregious offense when he mimicked and mocked a disabled reporter, to which Trump leaned in an intoned, “Wrong!” He simply cannot admit fault. I see him as a terribly wounded two-year old whose “malignant narcissism” makes him constitutionally incapable of admitting any wrong. In fact, in so many instances when he could have easily offered an euphemistic response like, “I misspoke” or “I regret putting it that way” he will merely double down because of a characterological in ability to simply say, “I was wrong.” Now, it is no coincidence that early in his campaign he stated that he had never asked God for forgiveness, an observation which evangelical Christian leaders like Jerry Falwell Jr. and Robert Jeffress conveniently overlook. I have a hunch they have this same “characterological” problem.
I must admit that the evangelical faith of my youth would not have allowed me to admit, “I too am a ‘people of the lie.’” Yes, I, too, have a shame-base and have spent most of my life adamantly refusing to acknowledge what Carl Jung called the shadow. I was a mere “actor” which is the word in the New Testament, for “hypocrite.” No, that does not mean I was a horrible person or a Donald Trump, it merely means that I had not found the courage, the “Grace”, to acknowledge that I was a flawed individual who was not as noble as I had presented myself to be or as I had thought myself to be. I had been presented with a “packaged” religion and I had not reached the point of maturity and courage to “open the package” and allow what in my spiritual tradition is called, “The Spirit of God” to begin to flow. Once I had begun to right myself after the horrible pain of disillusionment, a “still small voice” whispered to me, “Welcome to the human race!” For, it is human nature to be some version of Peck’s “People of the Lie” but, I admit, that is putting it a bit harshly. Perhaps I should just put it in the words of T.S. Eliot, “Human kind cannot bear very much reality.”