The Banality of Evil

The sales lady asks me if I need help. I tell her I’m just looking. She tells me where she’ll be if I need her. Then, she says she is trying to get some clothes sorted while she does not have to be looking out for thieves. I ask if that has been a problem. She tells me about two incidents the day before. One involved a shoplifter who had been caught on camera stealing clothes the week before. Yesterday, they caught the same person red-handed, but the manager let them go and did not press charges. The salesperson was clearly frustrated. I asked how the other employees felt about it. She said they were all angry, wondering why they should even bother protecting merchandise if the violators would suffer no harm.

 When basic morality breaks down, the damage is wide-ranging and deep. Everyone who shops in stores pays a higher price for clothes because of thieves. When people see others stealing, they are much more likely to follow suit. So the evil spreads from person to person. When employees are asked to prevent theft, but then feel unsupported by management, they lose commitment to every aspect of their job, making the shopping experience worse for every customer. And the number of people hurt by the “victimless crime” grows and grows and grows.Customers get angry. Stores close. Careers go backward.

As Christians, we must be on our guard against all the devil’s influences. “Watch over your heart with all diligence, For from it flow the springs of life”(Proverbs 4:23). We must not copy the shoplifters of the world, for their crimes will catch up to them. We also must not allow those who fail to hold people accountable embitter our spirit. Rather, we must keep our eyes on Jesus and follow his steps, regardless of the people and circumstances that would pull us away.