For a long time now I have leaned heavily upon the aphorism “they meant well” when encountering comments or actions that have been hurtful or even hateful.
After all the world is filled with misguided individuals and groups seeking to affect things with only the best of intentions and a genuine desire to improve things as they see them. Heck I am definitely one of those misguided individuals.
Lately however I am starting to wonder if this is an area I need to re-evaluate.
I am not so sure any more that “meaning well” is a great excuse for pain caused in another – regardless of whether that was the intent or not.
Consider that white supremacists “mean well” when they advocate for racism and racist ideals because of their twisted and messed up world view. We do not (or should not) give them a pass simply because they “meant well”.
Hitler “meant well” when he systematically slaughtered millions of Jews, Homosexuals, Disabled and more during World War 2.
Stalin meant well when millions of Russians were starved to death during his rule.
You get the idea right?
All of these examples are of horrific actions against our fellow sisters and brothers. Every action however is rooted in words which are rooted in ideas. With this in mind an off-the-cuff comment is not as harmless as one might think and should not be treated lightly.
WHENEVER we speak we have the capacity to hurt another individual or group. With this in mind we must seek to understand ourselves BEFORE we speak. Why do I feel this way? Why do I want to speak or act in such a way as a result and will it hurt another?
When we find ourselves on the verge of saying something stupid like “I know this hurts but it is because I love you…” we need to ask ourselves why our love would ever hurt another in the first place because this is not really the character of love.
We should avoid at all costs the rationalization that “well, its their fault” or the ever insidious “you are making me do this” which is ALWAYS false.
Meaning well is not an excuse for hurting another person with our words and/or our actions.
Stop defending the people who are hurting you simply because they “meant well”.
Stop defending yourself because you “meant well”.