“the road to hell is paved with good intention”
This quote just resonates so well with me. I’m not sure how others perceive this, but to me, it means that sometimes, in our attempt to “help”, it actually leads to unintended consequences and sometimes, even harm.
In this modern world, we are constantly bombarded by events and situations around us or even around the world that prompt us to help. When we see an old lady crossing the road, we get that impulse to go over and quickly help the old lady. When we see an aunty/uncle on a wheelchair trying to get around places, we rushed over to lend a helping hand. When we see news articles about people from other countries suffering from poverty/malaria/civil war, it triggers our amygdala and emotions of empathy and sympathy – also an urge to be there to help. However, I wonder if people have truly thought about the consequence of their help and if it is even truly, helpful?
Let us just take some moments, slow down our innate mechanism and drive to help and think.
Just imagine yourself, suffering from some chronic disability/financial/ difficulties etc for a long period of time, and one day, an ‘angel’ descended upon you and offered you help with your difficulties. It would be great if the help can lift us out of the sufferings that we are going through, and allow us to resume our independence in our daily live, however, what happens if the help is only brief and temporary? While it is sad to admit, but this is the nature of help in modern society. Many of the assistance that are provided are brief and temporary without consideration of the longer term impact.
We are so blinded and so eager to help we often don’t consider what kind of impact these acts have on people. In another case, just imagine a family of 4, getting by with little income. Common sense tells us that we should provide this family with financial assistance (usually temporary), but what does it mean to the family? Considering that the family have been able to survive without the additional assistance, injecting this amount of financial assistance would mean that we are disrupting the equilibrium or the natural coping mechanism of the family and possibly creating the problem of reliance. And what happens when we choose to stop the financial assistance? The family needs to find ways again, to cope with this lack of assistance. (FYI, I am not arguing for the cases where the family have problems coping with basic needs, and also families that sometimes just need this additional funding to cope with the temporary crisis).
I personally think that it is important that more people learn to understand the impact of their actions before they do anything, even helping. Consider whether it takes away the element of independence and personal empowerment when we decided to come into the picture and offer help and also what other sustainable ways are available when we help. I don’t think that helping is bad, but helping without conscious thoughts is.
All in all, the act of goodwill / help is just overrated in today’s world. People really need to stop, and think of what is the best way to help (if it even exist). Many a times, the needs of a person or a society stems from a larger system and maybe, it would have been more sustainable if we could involve more systems/organisation and listen to the person (whom we think is needy) to allow for a more personalized and sustainable help. (But yes, of course if it is a case of crisis, then direct help should be rendered.)
To end off, i would like to share this quote as i like how it encapsulates what i think help should look like: “Give a Man a Fish, and You Feed Him for a Day. Teach a Man To Fish, and You Feed Him for a Lifetime.”