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Sunday, November 29, 2009

'Mmm that you only meant well?' - Why My Good Intentions Aren't Good Enough

Jason Derulo's new song "Whatcha Say" is catchy and clearly illustrates how our good intentions don't trump reality, especially in the long run.

Often times, it's not that we can't make rational decisions; it's that we often don't have all the facts or don't want to take into account all the facts, especially the long term ramifications.

We're shortsighted.

We have a self-focused, limited vision that hinders our rational abilities above and beyond the limits on our access to information. We act for ourselves first without clearly considering how it affects God or others. And of course, this is not our intention.

Jason Derulo cheats on his girlfriend, and of course his intentions were not to hurt to his girlfriend:
I was so wrong for so long
Only tryin' to please myself (myself)
Girl, I was caught up in her lust
When I don't really want no one else
In the moment, he did not fully consider that he didn't want the long-term affects of choosing the fleeting pleasures of sin.

The chorus brings reality to the forefront: it's not enough to say that "you only meant well" because that doesn't make cheating okay.
Mmmm whatcha say,
Mmm that you only meant well?
Well of course you did
Mmmm whatcha say,
Mmmm that it's all for the best?
Of course it is
This theme reminds me of Madonna's song "4 Minutes to Save the World" with the line:
The road to hell
Is paved with good intentions
Of course, we mean well.
If you feel it
It must be real

There many reasons why "good intentions" are not good enough to maintain our relationships with God or with one another. Henry Hatlitz's One Lesson in Economics applies here, as we must learn not to look at reality as we want it to be, but how it is, which includes how the consequences of our actions affect not only on ourselves, but others. Good intentions do not change outcomes.
The art of economics consists in looking not merely at the immediate but at the longer effects of any act or policy; it consists in tracing the consequences of that policy not merely for one group but for all groups. (One Lesson in Economics)
One a larger scale, intellectual honest requires following our chosen belief system--what guides our decisions--to its logical conclusions and avoid limiting our perspective to our good intentions for desired outcomes. Bojidar Marinov from American Vision wrote an article titled "But that Doesn't Mean What It Means" with the same theme:
To say it simply, if the thing looks, swims, waddles, quacks like a duck, the disclaimer “but it doesn’t mean” doesn’t make it a hawk. It only reveals the unwillingness of those who use it to face reality and become intellectually consistent with their own beliefs.

It doesn't matter if you want ducks to be hawks.

"Mmm that you only meant well?"

It doesn't matter what your intention is. "Direction, not Intention, determines your destination," counsels Andy Stanley.

"We can't travel North towards Canada and arrive in Mexico."

That's not the reality we live in.