In the second book of C. S. Lewis‘ science fiction trilogy, Perelandra, Ransom, the hero, is imprisoned by Professor Weston, a demonically possessed man sent to corrupt the “Eve” of the planet Venus. At one point Weston begins saying “Ransom.” Ransom turns around, and the demonic being does not reply. Weston then repeats “Ransom,” over and over–just for spite.
To me spite has more of the essence of pure evil than the so-called primal sin of pride. Spiteful acts are done for “sheer meanness,” as Southerners like to say. Spite is the person who cuts in front of you in line not for any good reason, but just to make your day miserable. Spite is the person at the bookstore who moves into your aisle, and when you move out of the way to a different aisle, moves to that aisle, and so on. Spite is someone trying to agitate people into hatred and strife, not for power, but for the twisted thrill of watching people fight. Spite is the person who orders from the take out menu at a restaurant, then takes a table and refuses to leave, denying other customers that table. The essence of a spiteful person is the agitator. Those readers who are in organizations, whether the organization be a church, a civic group, or a special-interest club, probably knows about agitators. These are the people who, for example, go from church to church, stirring up members and causing a division–then they leave the church they destroyed and go to another church. They don’t desire to run the church; all they want is the enjoyment of creating hatred and division in the church. The same kind of people infect other organizations, and sometimes they are able to destroy an organization. It is no surprise to me that Agatha Cristie’s detective, Poirot, commits murder in the last novel with him as a character–and the person he kills is not a murderer, but an agitator who stirs others to kill one another. Someone wholly dominated by spite is a psychopath–not necessarily one who will become a serial killer, but one who will destroy relationships and damage people wherever he goes. Avoid being spiteful at all costs–and avoid spiteful people. Those who are dominated by spite, unfortunately, rarely respond to grace, and they are extremely dangerous, both to individuals and to organizations. They are the truly evil–read M. Scott Peck’s fine book, People of the Lie, for more insight on the nature of evil.