“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.
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.