“Another man’s evil does not make you good.”
– Father Lantom
Season 1, Episode 9, “Speak of the Devil”
This is just a part of something the priest says to Matthew Murdock, aka Daredevil. Matt is, at this moment, struggling with the notion that protecting the people of his city may necessitate taking the life of a particular enemy. On the other hand, maybe it’s not that he has to kill this man, before he hurts more people, but rather that a part of him wants to kill him, after everyone he’s already hurt. The priest does what he can to help Matt find his way, and hopefully choose not to kill anyone, and it all boils down to this sentence.
We are all responsible for our own actions, our own sins. We may tell ourselves that our enemy is worse, that we only do what we do to stop their atrocities, but that is largely irrelevant. Even when it’s true, we are still the ones choosing to answer evil with evil. That is a responsibility we cannot avoid, a weight which will always fall heavy on our souls. And each ill deed will hurt us more and more, twisting us into something wholly misshapen and hideous, only vaguely resembling the people we once were. Then the nobility we started out with rings hollow and false, until, in time, we are broken by our sins.
Perhaps more relevant, though, to our everyday lives is another way of interpreting this quote. Not only can we not just excuse our sins by pointing to those of our enemies, but neither can we do so by pointing to anyone else. Everyone around us makes mistakes, some of them quite terrible. Yet, we can’t use other people’s mistakes to justify our own. Sure, some people may be worse than us, or at least we might judge them to be so, but their “evil” does not make us “good,” no matter how we compare ourselves to them. It doesn’t make us any better than we already are. In fact, as we use this excuse to try and avoid our guilt instead of facing it head-on, we become worse and worse.
When you know you can be better than you are, it does not matter how anyone else is “worse” than you.
The bright side to this is: we can make ourselves better.
True, none of us are perfect, but that’s no reason to stop trying.