Quote from Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

I recently ran across this quote from Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, from his book “The Gulag Archipelago.” He said what I believe, but in a much more poetic way than I could have.

If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?

During the life of any heart this line keeps changing place; sometimes it is squeezed one way by exuberant evil and sometimes it shifts to allow enough space for good to flourish. One and the same human being is, at various ages, under various circumstances, a totally different human being. At times he is close to being a devil, at times to sainthood. But his name doesn’t change, and to that name we ascribe the whole lot, good and evil.

Each person is the hero in her own story. People typically don’t do evil things because they’re evil – they usually feel that they’re justified in some way.

I’m not aware of anyone who is completely good, who lacks any trace of selfishness or insecurity, and always does the kind, compassionate thing. I’ve also never met anyone who lacks any compassion, who doesn’t want to do the right thing when they can, and who doesn’t feel like they are doing the right thing at least a majority of the time.

The division between us and them, between the saints and the sinners, the righteous and the evil, is a false dichotomy. In this life, everyone always belongs to both groups.


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