Paved with Good Intentions

The road to hell is paved with good intentions it is said. The implication is of course that intentions are meaningless unless backed by action. But I was thinking of it in a different light – what if well intended actions turn out worse than inaction from the recipient’s point of view? I was at the receiving end of one such gesture yesterday which got me thinking. The incident in itself was minor and the details probably do not merit as much interest as the thoughts it triggered.

Various shades of these well intended gestures presented themselves to my mind. At one extreme, we have ideas like the white man’s burden wherein Europeans arrogate to themselves the noble responsibility of civilizing ignorant barbarians. There were probably some English men who even genuinely believed they were helping these ‘backward’ races. Somehow I perceive quite a bit of the so called social work to be manifestations of this tendency to different degrees. A group of people assume their way of living is better than that of another set of people and go about trying to ‘improve’ the lives of these others? 

A more benign version we experience from our parents, children, spouses and other near and dear. I remember one day, during my childhood my mother thought I would enjoy a Hindi movie. But instead of watching the movie, I was busy reading my favorite Enid Blyton book. She got into a fit of rage that I was not doing that which she though should make me happy. So she came up to me and ripped apart my Enid Blyton book. Now tell me. Did she make me happy or unhappy?

Then there is yet another version where the gift in itself is harmless like those oversize sweaters in weird colors knit by one’s dear aunts and great aunts. But then there is a catch there also. You are thinking you are being nice in accepting the unwanted gift graciously. And the other person thinks you should be eternally indebted to them for this great gift they have given you. Every time they meet you, they ask if you are still using the item that they have given you as if you would have never been able to remain alive without the sweater or whatever ugly thing they gifted you.

I for one believe each and every person knows best what or she wants and one should not do something for someone unless one is really sure that the person wants it. After all everyone’s life is their own and it is up to live as they think best. Now that is a great attitude to have and everyone would be appreciating me for my open minded liberal attitude, right? Wrong! I am often accused of being indifferent and lethargic at best and selfish and callous at worst.  

I am left wondering possibly the trick is in the paving after all, irrespective of whether it is the way to heaven or hell. After all paving is hard work and anything that is time consuming and laborious must be good irrespective of the results.


jaish_vats said...

When someone gives a gift you are supposed to like and use it especially from moms and aunts :D

Cart Hick said...

Indeed, Jaish.

indu chhibber said...

The second last para --i liked it a lot.

Suresh Chandrasekaran said...

Hahaha! The paving IS important, indeed! (Actually, I always thought that THAT saying meant exactly this - that the well-intentioned things you do end up paving the way to Hell)

Cart Hick said...

Thanks, Indu.

Cart Hick said...

Even I thought so, Suresh. Then googled and found that was not the case.

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