Don’t Try to Understand Evil

Little J.J. Sieger died last week from injuries inflicted by his mother’s boyfriend. And I still haven’t gotten over it. This two-year-old child, still just an innocent baby, suffered truly horrendous, despicable things. (You can read his story here.) For two days after I heard about this, I kept thinking about it and crying, feeling sick to my stomach over what happened and just was so, so sad. I don’t know why this atrocity has haunted me so much. I didn’t know him at all, so why all the grief and pain?

Maybe it’s because, as a mother, I feel connected to every child on some level. Maybe it’s because I feel for this boy’s birth father, whose son was taken away from him and there was nothing he could do about it. Maybe it’s because every time I see and hold my little Toad (pictured below), who is also two years old, I’m reminded of how trusting, innocent, loving, curious, fun, and gentle children are at this age, and of all the life and potential they have in front of them.

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But mostly it haunts me because I absolutely can’t conceive of how someone could do something like this to a baby. I know that drugs were a factor, and I’m sure there were other factors as well, but no amount of “factors” can explain this level of evil. And it is precisely this level of evil that mystifies me, much more than any other mystery out there. I don’t want to keep thinking about something so sick and sad, but my mind keeps going back to it because it just doesn’t understand, and it wants to make sense of the world and what happens in it.

How many of you have had the same reaction to senseless tragedy? To bombings, school shootings, 9-11, genocide, and other horrible acts of evil? I hear it all the time, in the stories surrounding these kinds of events, that people are struggling to “make sense of” what happened, to understand why, to “comprehend the incomprehensible.” I get it. We all want to feel like we have some control over our lives and what happens to us and our loved ones. When something terrible happens that we don’t understand, the world seems turned upside down, like that control we thought we had was nothing but an illusion (which is actually true), and that we’re totally at the mercy of the forces of chaos. We grasp at straws of “understanding,” trying to explain things away so that we can quiet that gnawing fear in our heads.

Here’s the thing, though. The overwhelming majority of people will never understand these heinous acts. This level of evil is never going to make sense, on any level, to most of us. And that is a good thing, because a person can only truly understand what is already inside inside of him. It’s like Velcro. If you don’t have the “stickies” already in there, then the same kind of “fuzzies” have nothing to attach to. I’m so glad that most of us don’t understand these brutal acts, because people are generally good-hearted, and depraved evil just doesn’t resonate with anything that’s already inside us.

So, I’m giving up trying to “understand” what happened to this boy, and so many other children who are tortured and abused. I don’t want to understand it, ever.

But I do need to have peace. And the greatest peace I’ve ever found is through my Savior, Jesus Christ. He is the only one who truly understands all of the evil that has ever come into the world, because he suffered all of it, personally, in his own mortal body. And because He is omniscient, like his Father, He knows what is in the depths of every human heart. I don’t need to judge people (and am indeed ill-equipped to do so) because God will judge every person in perfect justice one day. I can leave the sins of the man who did this to J.J., and the sins of his un-mother-like mother, in the hands of God and cease to suffer in my own heart. I know that this boy is in a better place, is free of suffering, and is encircled in the arms of love.

Remembering the power of faith also brings peace. When we’ve gone into a place of fear, we cannot be in a place of faith. Fear gives the darkness power over us. Faith will always bring light and strength. I don’t need to fear anything in this world or the people in it when I have the faith that God will protect me and my family. Yes, bad things can and will happen, unfair and cruel things, but God knows beforehand what is going to happen and He will strengthen us to persevere through these trials, which gives us the opportunity for growth that nothing else can. And every injustice any one of us suffers will be made right in the next life.

Yes, as terrible as this story was, I’m not going to waste any more happiness and energy in trying to make sense of it. Reflecting on what happened, I have tried to look for the failings inside myself and see where I have been impatient and unloving to children in my own way, which reflection has inspired me to do better. We need to learn all the lessons we can from “dearly-bought experience” and do all we can to prevent things like this from happening to any more children, but the fact is, in our fallen world, no matter what we do, things like this are going to keep happening, and at some point, we need to leave it in the hands of that Someone who is continually inviting us to hand our burdens over to Him. Little J.J., I’m sure I will think of you again, but hopefully not with any more tears.

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