An ancient Western philosophy called dualism viewed reality as divided into hostile opposites, good and evil, due to an aberration of the good-original sin-that became the source of the entry of evil into created reality. Evil, then, is a by-product of the absence of the good. Evil is a contaminant of good and is always divisive. It is antilife. The reality of evil is not willed by God but arises from the exercise of human freedom by those who will to do evil. God "permits" but does not intend evil. This is the mainline construction of monotheistic theodicy. Other views, some part of Eastern philosophy and religion, include the notion that evil exists to serve a higher purpose. The realities of pain and suffering, intended or unintended, are necessary means for human and spiritual development. Without suffering and pain there is no growth in personhood to the deeper realms of human potential and altruistic love.
Popular culture uses slogans to motivate competition such as "no pain, no gain" or "no guts, no glory" in referring to the victory of endurance, such as in Olympic contests. Such slogans are used to motivate a "winning" attitude and unwittingly suggest a deeper, spiritual meaning. A Christian theology of the cross carries the vision that suffering can be meaningful and a source of spiritual growth. This notion is popularized by the phrase: "no cross, no crown." Behind these pop culture and religious slogans is the conviction that human beings possess great capacity for enduring enormous challenges and hardships without the need to capitulate to the easiest solution or compromise of integrity. Confronting the forces of evil pulls human beings out of the lures of excessive self-absorption, apathy, domination, and violence and toward love of neighbor, selflessness, strength of character, and care of the earth. Those who succumb to the lures of egoism and selfdestruction or whose character fails to develop in moral strength, empathy, and integrity are those whose early life experiences may have caused a separation from the development of a true self. Psychopathology riddles such a malformed psyche and sets the stage for the evolution of a destructive personality weak in emotional connectedness and mutuality with others. Such pathology left unaddressed leaves human personality in the grip of unregulated grandiosity, rage, hate, and narcissism. Through faulty exercise of human freedom, individuals gradually distort their innate direction toward the good and, in the process, actually become less free.
Empathy and mutuality in relationship evaporate from the repertoire of human exchange and social relations. A sense of accountability to others and one's citizenship in the world cease to matter to those caught in this compulsion. Persons exempt themselves from the norms that govern social relations and shared human responsibilities, what believers name stewardship. Such individuals exhibit unwillingness to undergo selfexamination that might penetrate self-deception. These failings in human consciousness and conscience establish a pattern of attitude and action whose cumulative, progressive, and disastrous effects we can call evil. (These descriptions of deteriorations can be applied to institutions or social systems as well as individuals.) The contemporary theology explored in the book The Other Side of Sin: Woundedness from the Perspective of the Sinned-Against (2001) question the accepted necessity that it is not possible for humans not to sin and thus perpetuate evil. Innocent suffering raises the question of the ultimate morality of the world and the goodness of God. What kind of a world do we sustain when the innocent suffer for the sins of others? Must it remain a permanent truth that each generation must be wounded all over again by the evil it inherits? In the end, each generation asks and answers the question, Who is God, in the midst of unrelenting evil? Ultimately, evil falls into the category of mystery, which comes from the Greek word mysterion, meaning something seemingly unsolvable but something about which there is always more to know.