I try to keep the intensely supernatural ideas like non-human spirits to a minimum here, in part because I’m always unsure myself as to whether or not they exist.
But based on some experiences where I was not entirely sure what I was dealing with (and the experiences of others who were there at the time), let me offer the following as a thought as to what a malevolent spirit might be if indeed such a thing does exist.
First, a malevolent spirit will reel you in by seeming to help you. It will perform apparent miracles, but these “miracles,” to the spirit in question, are only a parlor trick.
Second, a malevolent spirit usually does more harm than good, but will try to keep your allegiance by reminding you of all the good it has done in your life.
Third, a malevolent spirit demands obedience. They’re jealous and don’t like it when you don’t acknowledge them as the source of everything good in your life.
Fourth, a malevolent spirit will often punish you disproportionately to your wrongs, or wreak havoc on your life and lead you to believe it’s all part of their plan. If an entity burns down your home because your belief in them faltered or something extreme like that, it’s a fair bet they don’t have your best interests in mind.
Sixth, a malevolent spirit will often ask for greater and greater sacrifices until you have nothing left. By “sacrifice” I do not mean necessarily the literal ritual act of giving to this being, but rather the loss of something in order to serve this entity; for example, leaving a spouse to serve a jealous entity.
Seventh, a malevolent spirit will take credit for things it didn’t do to make itself seem more powerful. The universe? It made that. Your grandma? It took her to Heaven. Your car? It dropped a tree on it… part of its grand plan or something. That seemingly-miraculous A in 9th grade science class? Yup, it did that, sure enough. Or at least, that’s what it will want you to believe.
Finally, a malevolent spirit will tell you exactly what you want to hear. This is insidious because if you’re brought up to believe that a being that kicks you around, instructs you to do things that are harmful, and “hurts you because it loves you” is a good being, then you will be predisposed to want to hear that this thing will hurt you if you make it angry. If you’re predisposed to believe in a single all-powerful God, they’ll put on a nice little light show to make you think they’re Him. If you are not predisposed to those things, it may get what it wants from you in craftier ways.
In other words, I say hold spirits- if such a thing exists- to the same standards you hold people. Abuse is abuse, no matter who’s doing it.