Thursday, May 3, 2012

Rant: "Oh, But They Meant Well!"

Does "they meant well" actually excuse an action that has the end result of harming the individual the action was supposedly meant to help?

No, seriously. Does it? Are they magic words that make everything better?

Is the person who's been wronged because of that action obligated to pretend that they are not angry? That they are not hurt? That they have not been offended?

Does it immediately take away responsibility for the action that was in fact harmful?

Let's use an extreme case. Someone informs a parent that autism is caused by vaccination. The parent believes them and does not take their child to go get vaccinated. The end result is that their their child catches one of the diseases that are in fact extremely fatal to children and dies because they were not vaccinated.

The person who gave the parent this advice certainly meant well! But a child is dead because the parent believed them. Is the person gave the advice completely absolved because they meant well?

Now let's use a less extreme case. Someone who is still living with their parents is reading about mythology, esoteric spiritual practices and other religions. Their parents find out and immediately pitch a fit and threaten to confiscate all of their books and enact various punishments until the wayward person conforms to the parents' belief system.

The parents absolutely mean well! Except they have greatly damaged their relationship with the person they have offended by their intolerance and outraged fear. Except they have threatened and punished someone because their opinions and thoughts differed from their own. Except they have created a breach of trust.

Does "they meant well" mean that it's completely okay now, and the person who was wronged is not allowed to be angry or hurt because of what happened?