When good intentions backfire
No one would remember the Good Samaritan if he’d only had good
intentions; he had money as well. - Margaret Thatcher
The road to hell is paved with good intentions is an ancient proverb.
How many times in our life have we encountered the situation where we do
something with good intentions only to be told to stop interfering, or
be ridiculed, or even be chided. We mean well. We wanted to support and
encourage, even inspire. But sometimes words or gestures get lost in
translation. What sounds good in our head simply doesn’t strike the
chord we intended.
What is worse is that individuals may do bad things even though they
intend the results to be good. It is certainly possible that good
intentions may not result in a good outcome because of inaction due to
procrastination, laziness or other subversive vice. Quite simply, it
could also mean that good ideas or thoughts lead to negative
consequences that were unintended. A person begins with good thoughts,
promising to themselves to do the right thing, however, priorities in
life change, time becomes a limiting factor, and alas, the good
intentions go astray.
One of the commonest relationships in which good intentions backfire
is between parent and child. When a child is identified by a powerful
parent to live out that parent’s unrealised dream; the parent’s
ambition; which is cloaked in what is in the child’s best interest; the
child is seduced into a gratifying relationship with the parent, one in
which the child is indulged as the favourite. Ultimately, this
relationship limits the child’s emotional growth and personal
development. This situation mirrors that of children who grow up
pressured to live out their parents’ dreams, as athletes, artists,
scholars, or musicians. These children, struggle to establish their own
identities, an identity distinct and separate from their parents. Some
children succeed but many fail succumbing to depression, anxiety,
addictions, and some, even death.
Whichever, in this instance the child embodies her mother’s hopes and
dreams, and their identities are fused. The child becomes a vessel
holding her mother’s wishes and desires, as do many favourite children.
And it is up to the child to fulfill her mother’s dream.
The experiences of the journey - the successes and failures - are
jointly shared; their lives are inseparable. The child’s successes are
their successes, the mother feeling the joy as if it were her own.
The child’s failures are theirs’ as well. Mothers hold the
disappointment as if it were her own. Parents’ hopes and dreams for
their children can provide children with resources necessary for
success, but when overdone, the consequences can be devastating.
A good example of this situation can be seen by the viewer if they
watch any one of those countless competitive song and dance programs
which proliferates our television time. What aggravates the situation is
children as young as five and six are made to perform, or should I say
gyrate, to music or songs; the meaning of which they know not, nor
understand. In other words, they are no better than performing monkeys
that are trained to just entertain. I feel sorry for the parents of
these children who unwittingly, and perhaps unintentionally, relegate
their loved child to the status of performing primates.
Entertainment is most entertaining when the performer performs with
the fullest understanding of what it is that is being performed. Only
then does heart and soul mingle to achieve the best possible result.
Only then does the viewer get to enjoy the performance to the fullest.
That is what makes the difference between mediocrity and
professionalism. But, in these programs that use matured babies to
perform, what is being achieved is the possibility of comparison between
human and animal capabilities. What is being judged, I suppose, is the
ability of the child to gyrate, keep to timing, and have a stage
presence. I am not condemning such programs.
They do some good in inducing in the child a competitive spirit as
well as a will to want to accomplish and attain the pinnacle of success.
These are good traits to develop for the future advancement of the child
in a competitive world. However, unless the child has the maturity to
understand the act he or she is performing; rather than just execute and
deliver; the purpose of the whole exercise will be lost. The only thing
that is being achieved is for the mother to bask in a bit of limelight
on account of the child; and, in the process, the child is only being
used by the parent and not being educated by the parent.
There are many instances in life where good intentions are expressed
and displayed without thinking of the consequences. An intention must be
an act of faith and not merely a reflex action brought about by a
sympathy factor or any other external cause, if it is to produce the
desired goal and fulfill its purpose. If not, it will be a waste of
time, energy and resources. The best of intentions are acts committed
without expectations of personal benefit - actions that only confer the
desired result such as happiness, well-being, stability, etc. for the
Here is an example when good intentions backfire: Mr. and Mrs.
Weerasinghe are in their mid 70s. They own their property, which is
valued at Rupees 25 million. They also have Rupees 10 million in their
savings. Mr. and Mrs. Weerasinghe have two children in their 40s, both
of whom are married. The Weerasinghe’ are worried that if one or both of
them need residential care in the future, then their property will have
to be sold to fund the care. They currently have Wills written that
leave all of their estate to the survivor of them and then to the
children on the second death.
They think that if they transfer their house to the children then
their problems will be solved and they do so. But consider the following
(a) Sadly and unexpectedly, their daughter’s marriage breaks down and
she has to divide her assets. Previously she only had a bank account in
her own name, but now her interest in the property will be considered.
(b) Their son has his own business, which gets into difficulty, and
his creditors come looking for payment. His half of the house suddenly
looks very appealing to those creditors.
(c) There is a family fall out and their daughter asks for her
interest in the property to be paid to her.
(d) Worse still, the son or daughter dies before the parent.
All of a sudden, Mr. and Mrs. Weerasinghe realise that transferring
their property to their children has jeopardised their security in their
own home. There are many such instances of good intentions backfiring.
The only way one can avoid such a possibility is to evaluate well, seek
advice, act in good faith and free will, and without a selfish motive.
See you this day next week. Until then, keep thinking, keep laughing.
Life is mostly about these two actions.
For views, reviews, encomiums and brick-bats :