Friday, January 18, 2013

Good intentions

He/she meant well but....
The road to hell is paved with......

Intent is not an excuse for actions. gone awry.  To mean well is not necessarily to do well. It may well somehow reduce the consequences for said action but there're no guarantees.

We've all been there at some point. Something has happened that begs for action/response and in trying to do the right thing we makethings worse. Hurt someone's feelings.  Make a disasterous business decision.

Brings to mind the so-called Obamacare initiative we are facing in this country,  Typical political fubar scenario.  In trying to make healthcare more affordable to many we now face a system more expensive and consequences not imagined as fast food and some restaurant employers begin to cut hours of employees to eliminate the necessity of providing healthcare. Many workers will now be even further under-em[ployes as a resuly of this well intentioned mandate.  I merely use this as an example - discussion of the merits of the program are for another time and place.

How about the doctor or good samaritan who gets sued for attempting to aid  the victim of an accident on the side of the road. It' possible and it has happened. Makes you want to rush right over and provide first said - doesn't it? It may surprise you to know that the unintended consequence I am speaking of is the reluctance to provide first aid thanks to the well intentioned laws that allow lawsuits in every imaginable scenario.

Every action - besides having an equal and opposite reaction - has a risk/reward relationship attached to it.  Is the reward worth the risk?  That's what you must decide.  In the case of aiding someone in distress I am not trained in first aid so my decision is automatically to provide comfort by being there and seeking assistance from someone who is qualified.  Call 911, etc.

I have no doubt we've all suffered an attack of foot-in-mouth disease and offended someone unintentionally.  We can only hope that if the offended party is a friend they are a true-enough friend to forgive your transgression.  It may take a while but a real friend will come around. Someone else may not but hopefully the unintended result makes you think about what transpired and makes you less likely to repeat the offense.

My bottom line?  It is better to try and do the right thing in every scenario. The right thing may not be as appealing as something else but it is still the right thing.  Intent does matter to the way you live your life.  In that very broadest sense it is always best to be well intentioned.  The negative fallout - over the course of a life - pales in comparison to the good you can accomplish.

To see what the other LBC folk think, please check out  Delirious, gaelikaa, Grannymar, Maxi, Maria SF, Padmum, Paul, Ramana, The Old Fossil and Will


  1. Shackman, let's leave health care and first aid aside. Your intro very much chimes with a personal experience of mine a few years ago, the ripples still felt: Someone was so intent to do me good she nearly destroyed me - or at least a large chunk of my emotional well being. Not, of course, that the well intentioned will ever admit that their course of action was less than beneficial. Oh, no, they descend into defensive silence since all that counts is their INTENT not the fallout should the outcome not be quite as envisaged.

    You have made my point by your last paragraph contradicting what you are saying in your strong intro.


  2. No contradiction U - taken on the whole it is always better to try and do the right thing. In your case you do not mention whether or not the woman did the right thing - just that her intent was good. Clearly she did NOT do the right thing. I do agree though that the well intentioned turn turtle often times when things go awry. Better for all involved to admit the error and move on. Intent is not an excuse for actions gone awry.

  3. I'm with ya, Shackman. "The negative fallout pales in comparison to the good…" I had never thought of helpful actions in this way but what you say is true.
    Blessings ~ Maxi

  4. Two ways we can all do our bit are to ease difficult situations:

    The Message in a bottle

    ICE Numbers are here

  5. I totally agree; meaning well doesn't necessarily mean we do well. We had a family member who was so intrusive in everyone's lives, and often caused lots of problems. Her daughter explained it away by saying that she only meant well. Actually, I think she only meant to control. We have to make sure that our actions aren't interfering with someone else's free agency!

  6. Your comment about Good Samaritans getting sued reminds me of this column by Andy Borowitz:

    In fact when the AIG Board of Directors met to consider whether or not to join the $25 billion lawsuit against the federal government (because the terms of the $182 bailout were too onerous) there was such a furor (including Borowitz's column) they decided not to join.

    Here's John Stewart's take on it:

  7. Defining right wrong etc can be moot. Trust your instinct. And more importantly, just accept the outcome, whatever it turns out to be.

  8. I think we're mainly in agreement on this - regretting crappy consequences (being sued) but deciding to do it anyway - because it's the right thing.
    Re the risk of being sued - I blame the willingness of the court system to entertain such actions or - worse again - actually declare in their favour, for poisoning many aspects of communal life and ushering in such a risk averse culture. People may choose to chance their arm by suing, but it's crazy that so many are taken seriously.

    As they used to say in Derry where the pavements were notoriously uneven: "Quick, call a lawyer, I feel compensation setting in."

    As for the unintended consequences of Obamacare - while not necessarily accepting your version of events - it's a shame that normal standards of decency go out the window when they conflict however slightly with profit. Does the duty to shareholders to maximise returns obviate all other considerations? Should it?

    1. I agree Paul - frivolous lawsuits as we call them seem to be the norm. Love the Derry comment - it applies here as well. Now about Obamacare - it's not my version, it is a fact - one I simply used as an example in this exercise. Clearly there's much more to that story and the heath care initiative. Some businesses exist in models with margins so razor thin - and resistance to making that $1.00 burger be a $1.25 burger so great the frontline employees get hammered. It's just the way it is. It should also be pointed out that entry level positions in fast food or restaurants in general were never - IMHO - intended to be lifelong positions but lack of education has forced many into that place. My advice is get educated and get the hell out - at whatever cost.