On Good Intentions

"He's so busy looking inside people to find the good that he misses the knife they're holding in their hand."
-Alexandra Bracken
It is very likely that at some point in your life, you have heard the saying, "the road to hell is paved with good intentions." While I was thinking about this post beforehand, I realized that there are several ways to take that, especially when you consider the alternative form, "hell is full of good meanings, but heaven is full of good works." I suspect that many people take this to mean that the people on the road to hell are the ones who say, "I meant to do good, but I never got around to it." That is to say, they have good intentions, but they never fulfilled that intent. This may be an accurate representation, but I tend to take it in another light. That is, that people fulfilled the intentions that they thought were good.

A while back, I ended another post with a quotation that I think fits this post as well.
"No man chooses evil because it is evil; he only mistakes it for happiness, the good he seeks."
-Mary Shelley
What this means is that everyone has "good intentions." To be clear, there are two ways to interpret "good intentions." It could mean that his intentions are good, or it could mean that he wants good to come of his intent. Each person has an ideal situation in mind that they want to come of their actions. So there are several questions that we must ask. We must ask whether the good they seek is for others or for themselves. We must ask whether the actions that they would take would bring about the result that they desire. And we must ask whether the end result really is good, or whether it just looks good to the person with the intent. Most people stop at the first question, and then call the intentions good or bad based on that. But even when they ask the later questions, people will often make excuses.

The first example that comes to mind is Loki. It rather bothers me how much girls will obsess over him. People will talk about how someone was treated, or how they were raised, or any number of things like that, and act as though that excuses their behavior. Or people will see someone do something bad, and will say "but they had good intentions." But they fail to ask, if the action taken produces the intended result, will that result be good? If so, then the intentions were good. If not, then they didn't have good intentions in the sense that we're discussing here.

Everybody makes mistakes, but those mistakes can't be dismissed on the grounds of "good intentions." I've made mistakes. I've done things that, on one level or another, I intended for good. The desired result came about, but it wasn't a good result. My so called "good intentions" don't excuse my behavior any more than they would for anyone else. (Bear in mind, it is a different situation if someone had a desired result that was good, but their actions failed to bring about that result.)

Forgiving someone is different than saying that their behavior is excusable. When someone makes the excuse "but they had good intentions," they're not trying to forgive. They're trying to defend. And this defense falls short when we examine what good intentions actually are. The true defense is not to justify, but to surrender. To say "I was wrong" and to ask forgiveness.
"Most of the evil in this world is done by people with good intentions."
-T.S. Eliot

1 comment:

  1. Yes! So many people (mainly girls...) like Loki, even though he has been shown again and again to be thoroughly evil. The same with the Phantom from "Phantom of the Opera" - he was terrible and yet everyone seemed to root for him.