Just in case there are those who refuse to be caught forever by ugliness and seek some alternative, the evil of cruelty makes its claims. Cruelty is something we recognize so easily as a physical activity, yet find so hard to identify in its finer but no less dangerous forms. It is essentially an intentional misuse of power by a strong entity toward a weaker one on the same plant’ of action. For instance, a helpless cripple could scarcely be physically cruel to a strong and healthy person, yet could very well be diabolically cruel mentally to the same person if he were intellectually vulnerable. Cruelty is only possible as a calculated discharge of destructive energy directed at feebler creature unlikely to retaliate effectively. Thus cruelty automatically implies cowardice as well.The motivation of cruelty is commonly again the artificial ego-enlargement resultant from its practice. It makes the little boy feel bigger when he kicks his baby brother. If we can make others frightened of us we seem larger by comparison to their shrinking. That is the secret of cruelty. A false sense of boost because of aggressive action which appears to avoid injurious reprisals. To hurt and kill some helpless and defenseless creature makes cruel people feel enormously powerful by contrast. They may even delude themselves for an instant that they are acting like gods. Taking their pathetic little share of life energy, they are willing to expend this on damaging the lives of weaker beings for the sake of supposing themselves more powerful than they truly are. None cry louder than such cowardly criminals when justified retribution rebounds on them. Nobody hates being hurt more than those who hurt with hate.

We need not always look for evident violence in order to recognize cruelty. It is possible to be extremely cruel in the “nicest and sweetest” ways. Staging little scenes deliberately to humiliate and hurt someone’s feelings while remaining righteously on the side of conventional virtue meanwhile. With the aid of a little intelligence people can contrive all sorts of cruelties yet themselves keep in the clear so far as rule books apply. Attendants in mental hospitals, for instance, have ample opportunity on these lines. So has anyone in charge of children or animals, or whoever is unable to hit back where it hurts most. Let those who think they could not be cruel examine what conscience they have within their own life-frameworks If we are still in human bodies then we are yet capable of cruelty in some degree or another. It is well to see this and convert our energies otherwise as we can.

–William G. Gray (Exorcizing the Tree of Evil)

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