The Risks of Noble Intentions

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“Their heart was in the right place.”

“They meant well.”

“It’s the thought that counts.”

The road to Hell may really be paved with good intentions.  Probably a lot of potholes too since it’s bound to be a bumpy ride.  Still, it’s made from people making a situation worse while thinking they’re helping.  Betting we can all think of a few times we’ve seen a person do this.  If not then you may very well be that person.  So, how does this relate to writing fiction?

First, what am I talking about?  These are situations where a person tries to fix a problem from the goodness of their heart.  It typically is done when they don’t have a full grasp of the situation.  The person sees negativity and steps into the middle out of genuine concern, which is different than doing it to be seen as a savior.  The latter isn’t a noble intention at all.  The person truly wants to help.  Of course, there might not even be a problem until they get involved, but that won’t be clear until they get involved.  In the tend, the noble intentions of one person has turned either a small issue into a big one or created a problem where there wasn’t any.

This happens in fiction all the time because heroes naturally try to get involved in the problems they see.  It’s why they’re called heroes, which doesn’t require a full understanding of the situation.  Authors tend to have this work out unless they want to throw a twist into the plot, which is when noble intentions lead to issues.  A common example is when a superhero causes damage and injuries by their actions.  Sure, they were trying to stop the villain, but they broke a lot of windows.  Of course, this has become more popular since ‘The Incredibles’ made it a plot point, so now it’s almost part of the overall genre.  Yet, it’s proof that meaning well doesn’t guarantee 100% success.

Aside from punching problems into submission, character interactions are a large arena for noble intentions going wrong.  One person is trying to help another talk to their crush, which leads to rejection and depression.  A person suspects abuse and calls the cops on a friend’s spouse only to find that they’re into BDSM.  That second one is comical, but put it in a drama to find that you now have a broken friendship and the couple may be more guarded with their private life.  Again, we see that a character is injecting themselves into a situation with the urge to help and they make a mess.

There are two common ways this happens in drama/comedy stories:

  1. The one with noble intentions is the stronger personality and is urging a more timid character to act.  They’re pushing them out of their shell for their own good, which touches on how society thinks shyness is bad.  This is done with no or minimal support from the timid character, who is shown to be uncomfortable.  If it fails then the noble intentions character may feel remorse, but the real damage is done to the person they were pushing.
  2. The one with noble intentions is outside of a situation and perceives a problem that doesn’t really existed.  Just a silly misunderstanding that people can laugh off as long as that’s the genre.  Maybe the cops were called or a surprise was ruined by the intrusive figure.  You find consequences for the nosey character in these scenarios more often than others.  Though, they typically get to bounce back in an epilogue unless they’re going to be shown as the true villain.

This is another aspect of noble intentions gone wrong that you’ll see.  The person being helped tends to be the one who suffers more than the helper.  Unless there is something illegal being done, the helper isn’t going to get arrested.  They might lose a friendship or respect from others, but that’s easier to recover from.  Just move to a new social group that doesn’t know what they did.  Maybe even find one that agrees with the help, which is a move I’ve seen occur in real life.  Meanwhile, the person who was to be helped is in a bad situation.  They won’t trust others as much or take risks because they’ve been burned by someone they felt was a friend or wanted what was best for them.  This is why I think the ‘noble intentions’ path should be taken with care and consideration.

I know I’m taking fiction, but also think about this in real life.  Read the room and tone before trying to help.  You may think you’re immediate action is what’s needed, but it could make things worse.  Sometimes a person simply needs to be heard or to be asked what is wrong.  Never be afraid to ask if someone is okay if you think they’re not.  If they refuse your attention then don’t push them into a corner.  Not everything is a life or death struggle, but you can turn a small bout of tension into an anxiety attack if you’re noble intentions are misplaced.

Isn’t dealing with other humans who possess complicated emotions fun?

About Charles Yallowitz

Charles E. Yallowitz was born, raised, and educated in New York. Then he spent a few years in Florida, realized his fear of alligators, and moved back to the Empire State. When he isn't working hard on his epic fantasy stories, Charles can be found cooking or going on whatever adventure his son has planned for the day. 'Legends of Windemere' is his first series, but it certainly won't be his last.
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25 Responses to The Risks of Noble Intentions

  1. ospreyshire says:

    Very interesting and I’ve heard that saying about the road to hell being paved with good intentions. I’ve been thinking about it because I do want to do good things. There have been times where I have made errors while I was trying to help, but I get frustrated how people doing bad things don’t get punished at all.

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    • I think because bad people know they’re doing bad. So they either take precautions or nobody expects good from them in the first place. Doing good and causing trouble gets more attention for some reason.

      Liked by 1 person

      • ospreyshire says:

        Interesting insight. When I do call the stuff out when people do bad things, it feels like I’m the bad guy or nothing happens to them most of the time. No wonder I tend to keep quiet in my offline life when nothing happens even if I speak up. It’s like the saying of no good deed goes unpunished, right?

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      • That saying is far too true. Guess good deeds have a downside because there are always opposite reactions. That’s just nature. Bad deeds too, but the responses tend to have less impact. Much less. Barely noticeable even.

        Liked by 1 person

      • ospreyshire says:

        Definitely and I wish it wasn’t the case in real life. The opposite effect of people doing bad deeds is quite infuriating where barely anyone knows about it. I even did a post on one of my blogs where I talk about casting choices that will ruin one’s perception of certain characters where I bring up their past wrongs that not many people know about or got a slap on the wrist for.

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      • It is sad that people remain ignorant of what others did. I’d rather a person know and decide to support than not know and then dig their heels into ignorance.

        Liked by 1 person

      • ospreyshire says:

        I agree and I wish people would realize that. Don’t worry, I’m not going to send you the link because I don’t want to come off as self-promoting. What you said reminded me of this Nigerian proverb I heard years ago: Not knowing can be bad, but not wanting to know is worse. Don’t even get me started about people making excuses for horrible behavior.

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      • I think it’s human nature to make excuses for bad behavior. At least for our idols. Admitting it requires introspection and change. Most people resist that.

        Liked by 1 person

      • ospreyshire says:

        I guess so especially when people make excuses for themselves. What does frustrate me is when people accept those excuses when they don’t do so for me whenever I may have one. When it comes to others, it can be a facet of idol worship (whether in a religious or secular context is irrelevant). Don’t even get me started about people giving carte blanche for those idols or not owning up to their own actions. When the uncomfortable truths come out, the backfire effect pops up in one’s brain which ramps up so much denial.

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      • I’ve seen it too. I get crucified for getting frustrated. Other people I know get away with full on tantrums and raging. I’ve noticed gender and general perception plays a part in this too.

        Liked by 1 person

      • ospreyshire says:

        I see. No lie, sometimes I struggle with feeling like I’m the only one who has to deal with these things. I know, right? Interesting how you brought up gender and general perception because I was reminded of the Amber Heard situation today. There’s NO way she would have a career if she was a man given the stuff she admitted to. General perception happens and other factors like physique, race, and some cases income if it’s well-known or not (see: affluenza).

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      • That came to mind too. Just look at what happened to Depp when people thought he was the clear abuser. He lost roles in Pirates and Potter. She’s still in Aquaman 2. From personal experience, I’ve seen that frustrating double standard. Men can’t even admit to being abused by women without being shamed or told they’re wrong.

        Liked by 1 person

      • ospreyshire says:

        Wow, great minds think alike, right? Okay, in all seriousness, you bring up a very good point because I knew Amber Heard was still part of Aquaman 2, but I didn’t know about Depp losing those roles due to false accusations. I can name other examples like Nike not dropping the endorsements for Hope Solo who was found dead to rights physically abusing family members (including a child) let alone allowed to compete in the Women’s World Cup yet they dropped Ray Rice. I’ll spare you from other morbid examples. You hit the nail right on the head with how men feel if that situation happens or if they see women being legitimately abusive. No one should be abusing others no matter what gender they are. Okay, I have to calm down a bit because that’s a subject I feel VERY strongly about.

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      • I thought Hope Solo did get dropped eventually. They got a lot of pushback for that and did it. Might be wrong. I’m reminded of the men who came out to say they were sexually assaulted too. The amount of mockery online was sickening. A lot of it came from women too.

        Liked by 1 person

      • ospreyshire says:

        I didn’t see any news about Nike dropping Hope Solo, so I think she might not do as many ads with them since she is retired from professional soccer. If they did drop her, they must have been quiet about it. I’ve seen similar mockery online with these stories and I was infuriated.

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      • I looked up the Hope Solo thing. Seems they let her vanish for a few months and then quietly brought her back. She does stuff, but it’s so low key that people don’t seem to really notice. I wonder if there’s a contract issue, so Nike can’t let her go without losing more money than it would spend keeping her on.

        Liked by 1 person

      • ospreyshire says:

        That makes a lot of sense. It could be a combination of low-key endorsement, being overshadowed by other domestic abuse stories at the time, and/or possibly that soccer isn’t that big in America (let’s be honest), but that’s a speculation. I could be wrong.

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      • Soccer is big every few years. Then most forget. It’s a predictable cycle.

        Liked by 1 person

      • ospreyshire says:

        Usually a World Cup year, right? I guess compared to most of the world, the popularity is minimal. I do agree that people forget after the fact.

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  2. I could resonate with the idea of a well-meaning person jumping in to help without understanding the situation entirely. Have done that in my time. Never turns out good either.

    Liked by 1 person

    • True. I try to not do that, but it’s not easy. People react quickly and think they understand what’s going on. Then, they make a mess of things. For some, the alternative of doing nothing is worrisome. Just no winning there.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. L. Marie says:

    I’ve definitely been the well-intentioned person who jumped in but wound up saying the wrong thing and making the situation worse. 😓 So this aspect would make an interesting conflict in a novel since the well-intentioned person is not a typical villain, yet is the antagonist in a sense here.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Huh! Maybe the maiden doesn’t want to be unchained from the front of the dragon cave. Could put a different spin on things.

    Liked by 1 person

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