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5 Indicators of an Evil Heart

This past February I wrote a two part series on the problem with evil. The problem with evil is, its beauty. I'd written about how hard it is for us, even saved Christians, to grapple with a very present evil in our lives, and the difficulty of identifying it correctly. The worst evil is so beautiful, so harmless-seeming, so gentle, that our minds often refuse to discern it.

Part 1, Part 2

Leslie Vernick at the Association of Biblical Counselors wrote an essay titled

5 Indicators of an Evil Heart

In her introduction, she writes:
As Christian counselors, pastors and people helpers we often have a hard time discerning between an evil heart and an ordinary sinner who messes up, who isn't perfect, and full of weakness and sin.
I think one of the reasons we don't "see" evil is because we find it so difficult to believe that evil individuals actually exist. We can't imagine someone deceiving us with no conscience, hurting others with no remorse, spinning outrageous fabrications to ruin someone’s reputation, or pretending he or she is spiritually committed yet has no fear of God before his or her eyes.
She summed up exactly what I'd been writing about a few months ago, but shorter. It's clear, scriptural, and helpful. Of course, I hope you never have to encounter a truly evil person, but if you do, this piece will help you discern it.

The piece 5 Indicators of an Evil Heart is organized into ten slides with a photo and a short blurb, with scripture, that help the  counselor, pastor or layperson identify evil from a temporary stumble. I offer this essay to you as a very good resource.

Text version here


  1. Excellent post. Absolutely excellent. Thank you, Elizabeth, for addressing this important issue on several occasions.

    Especially noteworthy statements:

    "If so [dealing with an evil heart], it requires a radically different treatment approach." Christians - including (especially) pastors and counselors - would do well to fully understand this fact.

    "They [evil heart] demand warmth, forgiveness, and intimacy from those they have harmed with no empathy for the pain they have caused and no real intention of making amends or working hard to rebuild broken trust." (i.e., no repentance whatsoever; notice these evil people instead MAKE DEMANDS from the one they harmed)

    Closely tied to this statement is #1 in the "they want you to believe that" section...
    As point #1 in that section says, "As Biblical counselors let’s not collude with the evil one by turning our attention to the victim, requiring her to forgive, to forget, to trust again when there has been no evidence of inner change." Exactly. Do not lay further burden on the victim, but rather, protect the victim. And then...

    The last full paragraph is key - it is important to confront the evil head on. Yes, they ARE that bad. No, they are NOT sorry. And no, they are NOT changing, short of the Lord crushing them nearly to death on account of their sin (Ps 107:17-19, if they are broken unto repentance "at the gates of death" by the Lord... which of course would bear REAL, TESTABLE fruit).

    Again, please protect the ones who were harmed by these evil people. They need the church to come aside them and shelter them, not to burden them! Remember, forgiveness and reconciliation are TWO DISTINCT THINGS. We can always forgive an offender, but reconciliation is reserved for when genuine, testable repentance is demonstrated.

    I could say more, but please, friends, read this article, and read (re-read) what Elizabeth wrote as linked above.


  2. Those five evils cover nicely the general territory of psychology--with one exception: the death drive.


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