Mental Illness – A Different Form of Evil


It’s happened again. Another mass shooting. Twenty unarmed people engaged in their daily work attacked by an unbalanced person and resulting in twelve deaths. Yet according to news reports, the shooter was balanced enough to seek help from a VA facility a month ago.

The wheels of our health care system grind slowly. This is not a criticism of the VA program – that’s not been determined yet. I simply want to propose one of many possible actions to insure this kind of damage to innocent persons does not increase.

The knee jerk reaction again will be to blame free access to guns. Or possibly to require more extensive registration to purchase them so they don’t get into the hands of mentally ill people.

This approach is as effective as chasing flies in the barnyard with a fly swatter. We need to address the heart of the problem. And it’s a complex problem so there is no single solution.

In many cases, it’s mental illness that causes people to do irrational things.

Why can’t some people get along with coworkers or hold a job? Mental illness.

Why are so many people homeless? Mental illness.

Why do people take guns into public settings and kill defenseless people? Mental illness.

Instead of fighting about the right of people to carry guns to defend themselves against mentally ill people, why don’t we focus on treating people who are mental ill?

Can you imagine the hell people go through who are mentally unstable? If Christians want to pull people out of hell, this is a great opportunity. They can’t do it themselves.

Lobbyists for pharmaceutical companies would love an approach that encourages the purchase of more medicines. Except maybe we could circumvent the money drain and start outsourcing the purchase of psychiatric medicines. Put them up for bid and let the world provide a quality product at the best price. Outsourcing is what American business has done. Why can’t the government follow the brilliant leadership practices of its own business men and women? Isn’t that what competition is all about?

Be the LightThe sages of many religious traditions (Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism, Judaism, Islam, African religions – that I quoted in the free ebook I published last February – Be the Light: Overcoming Evil with Good) recommended love and kindness as a response to hate and good as a response to evil. They recognized that evil is an action arising from the discord within an individual or a group.

Maybe goodness is the response to this latest incident.

How can we respond with goodness? Start directing more money for the treatment of mental illness.

Defining “evil”

The Hebrew word for evil (ra’) can mean several things, ranging from the opinion that something is (1) bad, like fruit that has rotted or meat that has putrefied; (2) displeasing, as a woman might be in the eyes of her patriarchal husband; or (3) harmful, like wild beasts, poisonous berries, or disease.

In a general sense, evil refers to anything that causes pain, unhappiness, or misery—which can even include the punishment interpreted by some as discipline sent by God. In the Bible, a man whose heart was evil could mean anything from being sorrowful to vicious, depending upon the context.

The Aramaic word for evil (bisha) has implications that allow you to imagine a deeper origin for depraved behavior. The Aramaic word refers to a sense of being unripe, undeveloped, or inappropriate. Other definitions include immature, corrupt, or a diversion.

The roots of bisha point to those things that distract you from moving forward. It expresses something that is not ready or is out of rhythm with what is harmonious. In my book, In Living Color: The Lord’s Prayer, evil was defined as something that pulls you away from your true purpose.

All in all, mental illness is a form of evil because it throws people out of rhythm with what is good and right.

On the other hand, the Aramaic word for good is taba. It means “ripe” or indicates something is ready for its purpose. Good is what is done at the right time and place, and we’ll assume, for the right reason. Its roots point to something that maintains its integrity and health by inner growth in harmony with what surrounds it.

The mentally ill are undeveloped and unable to reach their potential for virtue. The mature, the wise, the caring must tend to the needs of the mentally ill so they too can find peace. When they have peace in their hearts and the knowledge that someone wants to help them, they rarely go to the extremes of shooting defenseless people.

You can’t get an immature or bad tree to produce ripe fruit any other way than giving it adequate sunlight, warmth, water, and nourishment. When you help a tree to secure what it needs to reach its full potential, only then can it produce good fruits.

The mentally ill need medication and treatment.

I’d guess that if people were willing to put half the money into treatment programs for mental illness that they’ve invested in guns, they’d have less to fear of mass shootings.

With easily accessed treatment for the mentally ill, evil and fear will be overcome through goodness.

(If you don’t have an ereader and would like a free PDF copy of my book Be the Light: Overcoming Evil with Goodness, send me an email at pwmeier390 (at) gmail (dot) com.

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One Response to Mental Illness – A Different Form of Evil

  1. joel kretzmann says:

    Like the multiple definitions of evil.
    It seems too simplistic is just throw every suspect mentally ill into treatment. Ill-trained therapists often do more harm than good, especially when as third parties, making them less accountable & lack of parental guidance. Middle class one day a week treatment often a stifling routine with complacent counsel. And mental hospitals too scary.
    Not to mention just throwing money at a “problem” problem.

    All people must be more responsible for their neighbors’ interests.
    Permit laws, here, actually help, when the police can go arrest known criminals.

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