Self Help Now: A community blog

Dr. Jacqueline B. Sallade offers ideas for maintaining your mental health.

Good or Bad Intentions--Who's Good?

Written by Dr. Jacqueline B. Sallade, Community blogger | Jan 24, 2014 2:07 PM

Today, you can call me a psychophilosopher. I don't mean I'm psycho. I mean that psychology and philosophy interact. In fact, originally, psychology was an offshoot of philosophy, not medical science, as the field postures itself today. In the realm of what's real good and what's not, I will ask more questions than give answers.

I've been having conversations with a few people lately about what it means "to do good," as in giving of oneself, charity, or helping. If your intentions are good but the results aren't, did you do good? Are you good? If the intentions aren't good, or even selfish or "bad," did you do bad? Are you bad? Can most people be good or bad, all but the truly sainted and the truly evil, if there is such a thing, or are only behaviors/actions good or bad? I know that philosophers over time differ in their definitions of good vs. bad/evil, from looking at the effect, the potential effect if everyone would do the same, or the spirit of the act.

Let me share some examples with my own opinion. Let's take the constant helper, a volunteer social work-type and good helper to a less privileged population, He doesn't ask for praise or adulation, but it's not uncommon to see his ego expand as he doles out advice or lets his subjects use him to do their taxes and chores. He's making up for feelings of failure in other past areas of his life. He really goes good, enables some people to become too dependent and puts his relationships with neglected significant others at risk, which is bad.

Then, we have the mental health administrator, indirectly and sometimes directly an advisor and helper of many people. She is earning a living at it, and rarely doles out support and guidance for free. In fact , she wields power and can be quite vicious in her dealings with competitors. However, she really produces a lot of good. Clients credit her agencies with their major life changes and influence. She has the intention of helping them mostly to maintain her income and her success. Maybe she's not a good person but does good, anyway.

Next, there's the anonymous donor to many organizations and unfortunate individuals. Sometimes, she takes a little credit but usually no one really knows what she's done. It feels good to give, and she loves doing it. She feels whole within herself, but she doesn't do the giving for that purpose. She just wants to give back. I love her. She's doing good and is good. But, someone might say that if she would publicize her efforts, greater good might come of it by encouraging other people to do the same. That would be like the guy in the news who tipped servers $100 each during the holiday season. Then, copycats did it, too.

Anyway, you have your own examples and thoughts.

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