Sunday Observer Online


Sunday, 9 October 2011





Marriage Proposals
Government Gazette

When good intentions backfire

No one would remember the Good Samaritan if heíd 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 doesnít 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 parentís unrealised dream; the parentís ambition; which is cloaked in what is in the childís 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 childís emotional growth and personal development. This situation mirrors that of children who grow up pressured to live out their parentsí 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 motherís hopes and dreams, and their identities are fused. The child becomes a vessel holding her motherís wishes and desires, as do many favourite children. And it is up to the child to fulfill her motherís dream.

The experiences of the journey - the successes and failures - are jointly shared; their lives are inseparable. The childís successes are their successes, the mother feeling the joy as if it were her own.

The childís failures are theirsí as well. Mothers hold the disappointment as if it were her own. Parentsí 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 recipient.

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 Weerasingheí 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 scenarios:

(a) Sadly and unexpectedly, their daughterís 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 :

Donate Now |
LANKAPUVATH - National News Agency of Sri Lanka
Telecommunications Regulatory Commission of Sri Lanka (TRCSL)

| News | Editorial | Finance | Features | Political | Security | Sports | Spectrum | Montage | Impact | World | Obituaries | Junior | Magazine |


Produced by Lake House Copyright © 2011 The Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Ltd.

Comments and suggestions to : Web Editor