I think one of the biggest problems people have these days is that they do not trust their own intuitions about good and evil, especially when it comes to people. Immediately upon meeting someone, we inevitably have a very subtle, very fleeting, and yet very real reaction to that person. We can feel whether he is trustworthy, whether he is agitated, whether he is aggressive, or whether he is benign.
Now, people still interact according to basic social customs, and not according to their spiritual intuitions. Despite the general breakdown in manners and courtesy, people still use social custom to interact (the customs have merely been degraded, that’s all). So if you sense someone’s untrustworthy nature, you still extend to that person basic civility and interact with him according to custom. And this is certainly a good thing.
But no one talks about these gut feelings much anymore… or we are vaguely embarrassed to have them. Perhaps our PC training, which teaches us never to to reach conclusions about other human beings (unless they are white, Christian, male, and heterosexual), beats the instinct out of us over time.
“This person has evil intentions,” our gut tells us. “No,” says the brain, “you must not think that way!” And so we learn how to ignore it.
The good news is that the skill does not seem to atrophy. It’s always waiting there for you to tap into. All you have to do is look at people’s faces, look them in the eye, take in their posture and their body language. Your subconscious mind will do most of this for you, but if you want to bring it up to the level of the active, conscious mind, the best way to do it is deliberately remind yourself to study another person’s face.
And it’s not a matter of attractiveness or sexiness. Attractive people can have ugly energy, as we all know. And the homely can be beautiful. One merely needs to let oneself see it.
I find it very liberating and peaceful to do so. There’s a lot more beauty out there than I tend to think in my moments of despair. And when there is ugliness in another person, the mere act of descrying it can bring a kind of calm mastery to the situation. I’m less vulnerable to it, and having put myself in mind of the difference between good and evil as it manifests in people, I am more likely to be good myself and to seek out the good in other people.
(There are studies done proving that people can do this. I don’t think we need the studies to prove a point which should be obvious. Plus the interpretation of the data is often highly scientistic (and not scientific). Still, here is an interesting example of the kind of thing people do all the time every day without realizing it: “Judging a Book by its Cover,” from Psychology Today.)