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October 2015

The Road to Hell is Paved with Good Intentions

“The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

I once dated a boy who I will call Pascall for the purposes of this blog. The main problem was that I did not fancy him. But he was perfect on paper, so I tried very hard to fancy him. Not fancying him meant that we broke up, and then got together. I said things I did not mean. I hurt him badly.

It was never my intention to hurt him.  I intended to make myself fancy him more. I intended to make him happy. But these good intentions were not even close to enough.

They do not change the fact that I hurt him. They do not change the fact that I said stuff I did not mean. I lied to him. In that particular interaction, I was on the way to hell.

Why?

They hurt a person. They ruined a friendship. The outcome was rather shit.

Why was that the case?

Well, intentions are only a part of what we do. When intentions are not accompanied by the appropriate knowledge and resources, they can do more harm than good. In fact, good intentions can convince people that they have knowledge, skills and abilities to do things that they are not capable of doing.

Wayan Rosie left a family homeless.  He had good intentions, but the outcome was worse that square 1. Instead of the family living in a hovel, they ended up homeless, having to live with their neighbours instead in their own home.

This is an obvious one. With interpersonal interactions, the hell that good intentions can create are never this obvious. People are complicated. They have sides that they will not tell you about, or that they are not even aware of. If you do not have the full information, you can burn bridges with a single misjudged wisecrack or hurt others a great deal.

I know that this is what I did with poor Pascall. I did not know that I could not make myself fancy people. I was not aware of relationship dynamics. He was my first proper boyfriend, and I was pretty rubbish at knowing what my feelings or his were. I was about as well qualified to have a relationship with him as Wayan Rosie was qualified to build a house.

And you know, it is not my fault that he liked me a lot. But I did have some responsibility for the things that I did to make this situation worse. I was missing knowledge about myself, Pascall* and relationships which made my good intentions into slides into an emotional hell for poor Pascall.

It has been done to me as well. I dated a boy who tried to improve my posture by calling me an old lady every time I saw him. That is the wrong way to motivate someone. They will try to live up to your expectations, in my case trying to imitate an old lady. This guy did not have the skill set to motivate me. Fortunately, others did (myself included).

Yet good intentions are not all bad. Without good intentions, medals do not get won, stuff does not get invented, and things do not happen. So good intentions do not have to be a road to hell, so we don’t want to throw good intentions away completely. So how can a person go around with good intentions avoid the lucifer highway?

  • Increase your own knowledge or yourself – this is a BIG one. You need to know what you can do, and what you are good at. Delusions of grandeur can make hot messes. Related: Dunning Kruger Syndrome. I could have avoided hurting Pascall if I had known more about myself.
  • Cultivate and develop empathy for other people. Work out what makes them tick. That way, your good intentions are less likely to hurt them. Anything you try and do in life will be better if you can connect with people.
  • Back up your good intentions with ACTIONS. I may intend to write a great epic , but it amounts to nothing if I don’t do anything. The key to this is making goals and having a plan. There are many webpages about how to come up with these.
  • Learn from instances where you mess up badly, despite intentions not to. Make changes to your habits that mean that you don’t do it again.

Good intentions are awesome, and they can be the start of many positive things, but they can also pave the way to hell for yourself and others. Knowing yourself, learning to empathise with others, backing up intentions from actions and learning from mistakes mean less hell from good intentions.

*Pascall is married now, but not to me.

The acid test of friendship

When I meet someone I have things in common with, it all seems so easy.  I don’t have to censor myself around them. They understand me easily. It feels so refreshing. But is it friendship?

Possibly…

But I cannot say that it is yet, because friendship is not all about easiness. It starts with things being easy. It starts with things in common and easy conversations. Then life gets in the way.

Life is not easy. I am not saying that it is all bad. Life can give us wonderful things, but it can also give us challenges which are not always easy to react to in the right way. Sometimes, a person may hurt themselves and/or people around them, and not realise what they are doing.

I have had a few of these negative times in my life. And what did my friends do that others did not do? They told me the truth, even if it was not nice to hear.

To survive the acid test of friendship, you need two things:

(1) The guts for friends to tell each other when their decisions are hurting themselves or others

False friends can say negative stuff about while you are not present. (i.e. backstabbing) They won’t say stuff to your face. This is not being a friend.

Some friends stand on the sidelines watching you hurt yourself or others without telling you. This is better than backstabbing, and where a friendship is not strong enough, or a person is unsure of the whole situation, this can actually be the best course of action(*). If I don’t know a person well enough, this is the action I have to take. But I will want to be there for them if things go really badly.

However, telling someone when you see them hurting themselves or others takes guts, and if you are close enough friends with them, it is the best idea. Yet it can ruin friendships. It is not the easy thing to do, but it is sometimes the best.

Yet if you only have (1), it won’t be enough. I have been told that I am stupid/being dumb and a litany of other things by people within an hour of meeting me. This is not friendship. This is negging. I don’t like gender stereotypes, but this almost always done to me by men looking for sex.

Therefore you also need:

(2) A relationship where you respect each other enough to listen to negative feedback about each other

This means that constructive feedback can help, rather than make the recipient annoyed.

If you don’t have (2), what people say will be regarded as an insult, and it will be ignored. I have been in some situations where people thought they could tell me my real and imagined shortcomings, and I realised that I did not respect their words enough to actually listen to them, so it ruined bludgeoning friendships(**). This was not always because their words upset me. It was often because they were not even true, or showed a gross misunderstanding of me as a person.

I have received upsetting but true feedback, so I am still friends with the people who gave me that feedback. In fact, they could only give me that feedback because those friendships are strong, and are actually stronger because they cared about me enough to tell me the truth, even though they knew it would hurt me. I know they are in my corner looking out for my best interests. I know that they are not afraid of hard conversations.

To me, this is the acid test of friendship(***).

(*) If you don’t know a person well enough, you may not have all of the information to be able to make a judgement, and give feedback. It is a tricky balance.

(**) No regrets.

(***) And romantic relationships as well.

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