Evil – a simple definition

I love my wikipedia. I learn a lot I didn’t know and I refine my thinking by finding fault too. (The problem is knowing what is worth learning and what needs unlearning!)

Consider the wikipedia definition of evil:

Evil is generally defined as any activity which takes advantage of another person for one’s own benefit….(In contrast, good is helping others, even sometimes self-sacrificially; see saint, sainthood.)

There’s something dodgy about the form of this definition and also something very familiar about its implications. For one thing, it fits with the the lable ‘anti-social’ which refers to behaviour which has ill effects, but good intentions – “well, in his culture that behaviour is normal”. Whatever happened to ill intent, though? (For another thing, what’s the counterpart to sainthood?)

According to this view all employers are evil because they necessarily pay their employees less than they earn (‘necessarily’ because otherwise there would be no profit).

The definition attempts to define evil by contrasting it with good. So far so, um, good. But then it weighs them up wrongly, and we are left with a picture of evil that is indistinguishable from graspingness and greed. According to this view evil might have ill effects on the other, but that is not the intention; its primary intention is to gain advantage.

This is a fine example of how thinking about evil can go askew. (And, I suspect, thinking about good too.)

By re-balancing the wording of the above definition another meaning of evil becomes clear.

If good is helping another (possibly involving self-sacrifice) then it follows that evil is harming another (possibly involving self-benefit).

This is all the difference in the world. Now we can see the true intention of evil – it is to do harm. Evil is only secondarily about want, appetite, greed, jealousy; it’s true nature is malevolence, envy, cruelty, viciousness. Indeed, for evil the getting of things is happily foregone if what is primary can be achieved: power over another.

What say you?

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182 Comments on "Evil – a simple definition"

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Thank you for your replies. This is my first time commenting and I am glad I’m not alone out there. Why do I miss this evil person? Especially when I know how rotten her soul is? Someplace I heard that being with a sp is like getting caught up in a tornado that eventually spits you out in the middle of nowhere, damaged. Even getting out early like I did has really taken its toll on my self esteem and overall mental and emotional well being. I still have nightmares over the experience. I have 2 1/2 months since physical contact and 15 days since chatting online. Even the chatting online was emotionally damaging to me as it got me all worked up again because of the unwillingness of her to stop lying even when the truth was OBVIOUS! Anyway this evil person’s influence still lingers in my heart. Time and support will help I believe. I am still going through the shock of it all and still can’t believe a person is capable of the things she did. Blows me away and the shock part is what has been keeping me up all night with the same thoughts of what she told me she did behind my back! By the way getting distance has been like trying to get away from an octopus. Also for me it has been like withdrawal from heroin. Not that I understand withdrawing from heroin but I can image similar emotional losses experienced by both and I have talked to people getting over the drug.

Truelove, you miss the evil person because of a chemical bonding you have to her. It is an actual physical addiction caused by hormones in your body. Stay on course with no-contact. That includes ANY form on contact. One day you will wake up and the bond will be broken. You will feel much better. It doesn’t seem like it will ever be better, but it will. The timing is different for everyone. For me, it usually takes around 60 days for the effects of the hormone oxytocin to wear off. But it’s different for everyone. Your online chatting probably set you back. So don’t do it!


You’re correct, the chemistry of bonding can become a toxic glue that keeps you stuck. “No Contact” can surely help you reduce its hold. But there’s more.

In my book, Carnal Abuse by Deceit, I create a plan for surviving the breakup with a psychopath as “Dust Off!”

– Don’t Shame of Blame Yourself
– Understand healing and set obtainable goals
– Seek counseling or therapy
– Trauma check- figure out where the betrayal began
– Outward Bound- engage in activities that make you feel good
– Family & friends are supports only if they’re supportive
– Find out all you can about character disorder and live in reality!


Joyce, I wanted to add how much more difficult it is breaking up with a sociopath, and you have spelled this out so articulately.

The bonding hormone oxytocin itself is really an interesting thing. I’ve experienced it many times, including with two different men in the past year that I never even had sex with. One I salsa danced with very frequently for a year. The other one I had a few dates with and ended up going on a cruise with him. Though I did not have sex with him, I did sleep and cuddle with him a few nights. In both cases, this was enough to trip the bonding hormone. With the cruise guy, it took very close to 60 days for it to wear off. In fact it was just this weekend I felt it wearing off. Before, when I was in its grip, I felt like I would NEVER get over him – a guy I really only had a few actual dates with!

Each time, I felt that this was the love of my life. When I look at both of them with a clear head, neither of them would have been right for me. OMG, the cruise guy is nearly an alcoholic! But due to the powerful effect of oxytocin, I really felt like we were meant to be together. This stuff is very powerful.

Just because I’m tired of going through this over and over, I have really stepped back and stopped having these romantic interactions for the time being, until I can figure out what I want in a man and where to find that type of man. I cannot stop salsa dancing, especially now that I’m starting to teach it, but I can limit the number of dances I have with each partner.

I would like to do more research on oxytocin if anyone knows a good website or two.
I have to admit that the red flags started early on during the first week even when she played the “hot and cold” game. Right there should have been enough to cause me to back away. My friends agreed.Its crazy how the sp was able to dismantle or cloud me from using or trusting my gut instinct in the first place. Perhaps I think it was because she said all the things I wanted to hear since she mirrored me. Also I think they have a triple dose of oxytocin that kicks in intensely the first couple weeks. I hope I feel better in a month or two. I am still going through shock of what happened to me and anger/rage at the person who did this. Yea I am really pissed still! I used to be a nice guy/good hearted with a great sense of humor. I don’t know where that person has gone. I feel so bitter and angry. I used to be open and expecting people to be kind or at least not want to purposely hurt me. I think thats the betrayal that hurts the most. The one that causes me to question the goodness in others when most of us wouldn’t even conceive of hurting another person on purpose.

Truelove, it takes time but one day you will be open and trusting again. But you will know how to set boundaries and look for red flags, so you will be able to trust yourself to protect yourself.


Once we begin to understand the signs of predatory behavior… their instant connection, charming, seductive ways, we spot them much more readily. We’re less likely to take the bait and get reeled in.

Our interests, however, have to refocus. Instead of being attracted to the “dashing” types who will “wow” us, we’ll look more for what’s behind their impressive facade. We need to discover more about their inner reality. Are there signs that they truly care about the people around them?

Keep in mind that the predator is looking for the person who has the forgiveness and kindness that affective empathy produces. Revealing that side of ourselves at the get-go will make us a more likely target.


There are two books I’ll recommend to you that can help you better understand the role of oxytocin in a relationship. The first is mine because it explains the chemistry of romance, betrayal and moral development. (“Carnal Abuse by Deceit, How a Predator’s Lies Became Rape,” on Amazon.) The other is “The Moral Molecule” by Paul Zak.


Joyce, you are so right. The last two guys I fell for (that didn’t work out) were of good character, and this is the most important thing to me. The main area where we didn’t match up is that neither of them – for different reasons – was in the market for a serious relationship. One wanted a flirty romantic dance relationship. He was unrecovered from his last divorce. At least he was a perfect gentleman and never tried to sleep with me, even though the attraction was strong. The other wanted a party girl to hang out with and sleep with. He has a bit of a Peter Pan complex but extremely honest about where he’s at. I don’t know if either of them could have or would have come around. I just ended it with them both (sadly). I sometimes regret not sleeping with the last guy because I actually think he really liked me and I think he would have come around. I really liked him and admired him in a lot of ways. But I didn’t want to take any chances on getting played. When he told me he “wasn’t looking for a girlfriend,” I believed him. I’m not so much attracting sociopaths these days, and I’m not afraid of that. My last round was with men who are great men but not quite available. I feel I’m getting closer to what I want If I can just stay centered and focused on myself and my own happiness without chasing after a man.

In the aftermath of this last one, now that the chemical bonding stuff finally wore off, I am really hesitant to get involved with anyone. I just want to explore friendships with men. But I’m not quick to fall for anyone these days. I had a guy come over today that I reconnected with from a few years ago – we had gone on a date or two. This guy is great – he is extroverted, musical like me, and we have a lot in common. He is sensual and reasonably attractive, and very intelligent. He’s a good listener and seems genuinely concerned about my life. And he has always really liked me. I just feel like I don’t know him anywhere NEAR well enough for anything romantic. Friends first. This is how it is for me now. I take a LONG time to get to know someone. People have a lot of layers, and I want to penetrate a few of those layers before the oxytocin sets in.


Good for you! I read an interesting book on relationships from a male perspective recently, Steve Harvey’s “Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man.” It’s pretty good at demonstrating that a man is either looking for a “keeper” or they’re not. And if they’re not, you need to guard your heart.

So if you’re looking for a permanent relationship, you need to not only identify someone with kindness and the other qualities you admire, but someone who is also ready for a permanent thing!


I read that book recently! And yes, I want a man I can look up to and admire who also values me as a person. I think I’m attracting guys who aren’t quite ready because I’m not quite ready.

And you know, I’m 53. You’d think that guys in their 50’s are all mature enough to settle down. Surprisingly, many are not. When I found myself still single in my late 40’s, at first I thought my options were limited. That’s when the spath came along and I was susceptible to his over-the-top attention. Now I’m past all that thinking. I actually have many options, but most of the men I meet are just not of the right caliber for me – are lacking in depth or character or just not that attractive in other ways. And even this is fine, because I’m really focused on making myself the happiest person I can be – giving back to my friends and the community, dancing as much as I can, taking care of myself financially and otherwise, and taking are of my animals – traveling and writing when I have the opportunities. Being on here is a giant part of my healing – giving back to the LF community. I feel grateful for what I have, and if I died tomorrow, I would not feel unfulfilled. So if a great man comes along at this point, it would be icing on the cake. But the more I go inside and experience my own feelings and reside increasingly closer to the center of my being, the less I feel the need for a man. The only danger for me is that I’m an extremely sensual person. I express emotion often through physical touch, and this is one of the reasons I love salsa dancing. But it’s very dangerous because of the oxytocin. My sensuality is the bane of my existence. And when I find a man who matches me in that way, if there’s any kind of attraction, I’m usually in deep trouble. I’m trying now to pull back and just observe feelings of attraction without having to act on them because physical attraction is not a good indicator of a good partner.

It seems that once the oxytocin sets in, I’m just in trouble. The last few guys did not have the same response I did. It was surprising and disappointing to me that they didn’t, but I’m starting to understand men very well and how to protect my heart with them.

I like your definition.

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