Be Wary of Good Intentions

"The road to hell is paved with good intentions."

Have you ever stopped to think about the meaning of this expression?  Do you ever tell yourself that you should get over something that someone said or did because "they meant well?"

There are times when it's hard for us to process the behavior of others when it has impacted us in a negative way. It might be verbal message that was hurtful, a repeated pattern of "knowing what's best for you" that ignores or overlooks what you think is best for you, a decision made without your knowledge or consent because, clearly, you aren't equipped to make that decision for whatever reason. We often decide that, while not awesome, it's okay and we move on with the justification that the person in question had good intentions, and ultimately that's more important than the action they took or the consequences it had.

That is B.S.

Intentions mean shit. It's the action and the subsequent consequences that matter.

Now, of course, no one is perfect. Human beings make imperfect decisions and engage in sub-par behavior from time to time. When that happens, an apology—a REAL one—is in order. It takes genuine self-awareness on the part of the other person to see that they acted in a way that disempowered you, to say sorry, and to refrain from such actions in the future. When you allow someone to get away with their actions without that apology and hold strong to the expectation that it not happen again, you consent to more of the same.

This pattern of thinking and cycle of behavior is very common in toxic relationships, where there's already a power dynamic at play in which the toxic person calls the shots through manipulative behavior over long periods of time. The target stays engaged because they aren't sure how to get out of it, what to say, feels they have no choice, etc. It's even more confusing because the "well-intentioned" person is often someone with whom you have an intimate relationship, like a parent or partner, or a long-term professional relationship, such as a mentor or boss. You've spent years believing this person has your best interests in mind, so you give them the benefit of the doubt repeatedly, even though they've shown you they don't deserve it.

When you identify this pattern, it's time to speak up and set expectations. Let this person know what it feels like to be on the receiving end of their behavior and what you expect moving forward. Observe the reaction you get. Is it dramatic? Do they go into victim or martyr mode? Do they try to make it about them instead of focusing on what you're saying about the impact on you?

Watch and see if they respect the boundary you've set or continue to operate as usual. Be prepared to enforce and repeat yourself, and to take the next steps to create distance if required.

Maki Moussavi