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The Road To Hell

August 21, 2010

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The Road To Hell

I’ve often heard the old adage, “the road to hell is paved with good intentions” and I had always disagreed with it. Surely, the road to hell would be paved with bad intentions, right? I’ve recently discovered that the phrase is indeed true; I guess you can never fully understand something until you’ve been forced to experience it.
The aphorism can be credited to Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, a French monk who lived in the 11th Century. It was he who wrote “l’enfer est plein de bonnes volontés et désirs”, the French version of the phrase.
The phrase simply means that people often end up doing bad things even though they had intended that the results would be good. Another interpretation is that good intentions may not result in a good outcome because of inaction due to procrastination, laziness or another subversive vice.
For example, a student intends to get 100% on a test, yet does not study. His intentions were good, but his course of action was bad, thus ending in bad results.
In researching the phrase, I read that psychological studies indicate that there is some truth in the proverb. Perfectionists are especially prone to have their intentions backfire in this way. When judging intentions, they are more likely to interpret good intentions for their own actions than they are for those of others.
This phrase can be applied to parents, who instinctively want the best for their children. Their intentions are always good, but sometimes their actions can cause their children to be unhappy, even though they genuinely mean well.

So it’s true, the road to hell is paved with good intentions, in three scenarios.

    Hurting a person without meaning to. This is as a result of the imperfections we have as human beings. Often the case with friends, or in other intimate, interpersonal relationships
    Forcing your will upon someone else because you think you know what’s best. This is often as a result of egotism, where we assume that our way is better than their way. Often the case with parents and their children.
    Improper planning or poor execution of a plan. While you may have a great idea that should end well, if you don’t work towards achieving the goal, you’ll end up with a failure, or in “hell”, as the case may be.

    I guess I can now look at it this way: when bad things happen, people never wanted it to be that way, it was just the circumstances, just the way it turned out.
    I can also look at it this way: when bad things happen, the best of us can find happiness in misery. But that’s another idiom for another blog post.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. August 22, 2010 9:00 am

    so it often is …. we want a good outcomes however the path we take sometimes leads us further away from where we want to be

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