Normally when Supergirl is not flying around in a blue suit with big S on the front and a red cape in the back, she is an almost painfully sweet young woman named Kara Danvers. It is hard to imagine sweet Kara ever saying a mean word to anyone. But in a recent episode, Kara was exposed to red kryptonite, which gradually turned her evil.
Eventually Kara’s friends were able to reverse the effects of the red kryptonite, just in time for newly restored good Supergirl to fly off and defeat the bad guys, as she does in every episode.
But then came the reckoning. Kara had to face all the people she had been mean to while under the influence of the red kryptonite.
This is where the program got theologically interesting. The question it raised was, who is the real Kara?
Sweet Kara would never say anything mean. Evil Kara said a lot that was mean. But sweet Kara had to admit that evil Kara was inside her all the time. What made the whole experience so awful for sweet Kara was that all the worst things she ever thought or felt suddenly dominated her personality.
I suspect we have all experienced times like that, times when we simply could not control ourselves, times when we said or did things that we knew we would regret, that we knew were wrong.
Here is how the apostle Paul puts this: “I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate….I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. For I do not do the good that I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do” (Romans 7:15-19).
It is like we are all exposed to red kryptonite sometimes, and suddenly all our worst impulses come surging to the surface and take over our personality.
Whenever that happens, the great temptation is to make excuses for ourselves, to say we didn’t really mean whatever we said or did.
But that is a cop out. The meanness is inside us, even if want to deny it, even if we try not to let it out. Evil Harvey lurks inside me, just like evil Kara lurked inside Supergirl and evil Paul lurked inside the apostle.
That is why I always find the first few verses of today’s Psalm a little unnerving. “O Lord, you have searched me and known me….You discern my thoughts from far away….Even before a word is on my tongue, O Lord, you know it completely.”
When we prayed this Psalm, we skipped a few verses, but they are important too. The Psalmist says he thought about hiding from God, but realized he couldn’t do it. He says, “where can I go from your spirit? Or where can I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.” He keeps going for another several verses, all of which remind us that there is no getting away from God.
The lesson is clear: God sees evil Harvey, no matter how hard I try to hide him.
That is the human condition. We have, deep down inside us, all kinds of anti-social, mean-spirited, sinful impulses that we try to hide from each other, from ourselves, and from God. And the first thing this Psalm teaches us is that our efforts to hide our evil impulses are hopeless.
But the Psalm keeps going, and this is where it gets good. It is true that we all have evil inside us. But that is not the deepest truth of who we are. We may be marked by sin. But we are created in the image and likeness of God. We are, first and foremost, God’s beloved children. Beneath even the sin that we try to hide is God’s original blessing, God’s enduring love, God’s redeeming grace.
That is what the Psalmist means when he says to God, “it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” We can hold onto that one! We are fearfully and wonderfully made by God, and wonderful are God’s works, including us!
Evil Harvey is part of who I am, and I have to deal with that. But the good news is that I can deal with evil Harvey because, at the deepest level of all, I am God’s wonderful creation, created in God’s own image and likeness, and pronounced very good. That is who I am, who we are.
The great question, and Christians have been wrestling with this question going back at least to the Apostle Paul, is what do we do with all those evil impulses, with the sin that lurks inside us, with the evil version of ourselves?
First, we have to give up the pretense that the evil version of ourselves does not exist. All of us have sin and evil inside. You might as well know that about me because I know it about you. There is no sense in pretending otherwise. And trying to pretend otherwise is as exhausting as it is pointless.
But we also can’t simply give in to the evil version of ourselves. Sometimes, when people have done or said a mean thing, they try to defend it by saying, “I can’t help how I feel.” That may be true. But we can help how we act on our feelings. The fact that someone irritates us is no excuse for lashing out at them. That is letting the evil version of ourselves dominate us.
Instead, what we need to do is confess our sins. We offer up the evil version of ourselves to God, and we ask God to help us be better, to do better, to live as God’s beloved child, not as an evil and twisted version of ourselves.
I am reading a book now on shame and vulnerability. My favorite line so far is this: “If we speak shame, it begins to wither.” What I take the author to mean is that when we confess our worst impulses to God, the simple act of confessing, of naming our sin for what it is, of speaking our shame, that simple act itself reduces the power of sin over us. It reduces the power of our evil selves and cleans up the image and likeness of God in us.
But of course more happens when we confess our sins to God than what we do. When we confess in the name of Jesus Christ, we are bathed in God’s forgiveness and God’s grace, which does more than we could ever do on our own to reduce the power of sin and to increase the power of grace in our lives.
Our evil selves will always be part of who we are. But our evil selves will not control how we act, as long as we remember that we are God’s beloved children, and confess our sins to God, and rely on God’s grace and love to help us.
And so my prayer for us this year is that we can live as our best selves, with God’s help. And I pray in the name of the one who makes
 Brené Brown, Daring Greatly, 2012.