I don’t know who it was that first said, “the road to Hell is paved with good intentions,” but it has taken on new meaning for me. It’s often used in reference to someone who means to do a good thing but never gets around to it. Preachers may use it as they speak of the decision to accept Jesus. Another way to look at it is good people trying to do good things in ways that are not so good. Sometimes the method for obtaining an objective is as important as the objective itself. On a grand scale I think of our government. Many well meaning people embrace socialism because they believe in caring for the poor. Caring for the poor is commanded by God, so it’s obviously important, but how one does so is also important. Stealing from one person to give to another, even under the protection of law, is still stealing. Furthermore, it’s not the best way to help. It foments a sense of entitlement that removes the incentive for them to better their condition through their own efforts. It reduces the incentive for people to provide the kind of help that would be truly meaningful because the government has taken the responsibility. Those being taken from may come to resent those being given to, and so even less is accomplished. It’s also unconstitutional, but no one worries about that anymore.
The same kind of thing happens on a personal level. We can want something that’s good, even helpful to someone else, yet go about getting it in a way that hurts everyone involved. I think it’s appropriate at such times to question our own motivations. Is what we want really for the benefit of someone else, or is it in fact for our own gratification, allowing us to feel good about ourselves or realize some secondary reward? These are questions I ask myself.