Home » Blogs » Anger Management » Avoiding the Good Intentions that Pave the Way to Hell

Avoiding the Good Intentions that Pave the Way to Hell

 I have recently found myself thinking a lot about good intentions. 

Inherently, they seem positive, right? However, they have a deeper negative impact that many do not fully appreciate. Good intentions are nothing more then idyllic dreams masquerading as concrete goals.

Good intentions are often things we say we want to do, we intend to do, yet there is not a clear plan in place to put them into action. They are the behaviors that we are preaching and projecting on to some undefinable, unclear ‘later’ date. 

Good intentions speak to life as we imagine it in our hopes, dreams, fears, wants, wishes, attitudes, expectations and perceptions. Yet promoting our good intentions do not seem to protect us from bad — or at least unexpected — outcomes.

This often happens because we haven’t fully thought out all the potential consequences of acting on our good intentions. Even the simplest actions undertaken for the best reasons, can produce results we didn’t anticipate.

Life is complicated. A spontaneous gift for one of our children can lead to hurt and resentful feelings from our children, who then takes the resentment out on the “privileged” sibling. Other times our intentions may be adequate, but our ability to follow through is lacking. We might want to really surprise our spouse by balancing the checkbook, only to make an even bigger mess of it because we just aren’t very good at it.

Good intentions are ultimately self indulgent, counter productive and often lead to destructive choices. Beneath our wishful hopes, the motivation that compels us to act is rooted in antagonism, masked as altruism. These are acts based in paternal protection exhibited by controlling behaviors that are used to prove our worth and hide our inadequacy to cope with uncertainty. 

Good intentions are only good for ourselves and most of the time they are very bad in relation to someone else. It turns out that even when we are seemingly doing ‘good things’, we can be almost certain that we are doing ‘bad things’ from the viewpoint of others. 

Good intensions can be understood in terms of four motivations that were modeled during childhood.


The first type of good intention is over-ambitious person, which applies to those who decide what others should be.  Until the person becomes what other want, they feel worthless and inadequate. An over-ambitious good intention sets others up to fail by living in the future and feeling incompetent in the meantime.

The second type of good intention is the over-critical person who finds fault with everything others do because they only want them to be their best, which means perfect.  This teaches others that they cannot do anything right and cannot trust their own judgment.

The third type of good intention is the over-indulgent person who gives others everything they want and more.  Because the others are not taught to work for anything, they become dependent on others and full of self–doubt when alone.

The fourth type of good intention is the over-protective person who teaches others that danger is lurking around the corner; something bad is bound to happen soon.  People end up feeling inadequate to cope and scared of everything. This is a recipe for anxiety.

What are real intentions? Real intentions involve acting in accordance with the demands of the present situation. Real intentions arise from: 

1) Perceiving reality and its demands clearly. 

2) Accurately assessing what the situation requires us to do. 

3) Deciding on an appropriate intervention. 

4) Implementing our decision in the reality that exists in the here and now.

Reality is the world as it is, not as we imagine it in our hopes, dream, fears, wants, wishes, attitudes, expectations and perceptions. We can do what reality requires and use real intentions to:

– Catch ourselves thinking, “this is what we should do” (Should is a preference)

– Catch ourselves trying to please others.  (We don’t know how they want to be pleased)

– Catch ourselves trying not to displease.  (We can live up to our own standards)

– Catch ourselves protecting others from consequences (They did not ask for our help)

– Catch ourselves trying to prevent disaster. (Live in the present, we can’t predict the future)

– Catch ourselves having high standards for self/others. (We don’t know what’s best)

– Catch ourselves trying to prove our worth to others. (Self worth comes from within)

Avoiding the Good Intentions that Pave the Way to Hell

Aaron Karmin

No comments yet... View Comments / Leave a Comment



APA Reference
Karmin, A. (2018). Avoiding the Good Intentions that Pave the Way to Hell. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 1, 2020, from


Last updated: 24 Dec 2018
Statement of review: Psych Central does not review the content that appears in our blog network ( prior to publication. All opinions expressed herein are exclusively those of the author alone, and do not reflect the views of the editorial staff or management of Psych Central. Published on All rights reserved.