Of late, I’ve been doing a bit of reading up on the history of philosophy, and came across some information regarding Utilitarianism, and it got me thinking….
For the purpose of this post, I’m not going to go into detail about Utilitarianism other than say it is a philosophical moral theory that focuses on the RESULTS, or CONSEQUENCES, of our actions, and treats INTENTIONS as irrelevant.
For sure consequences are what we have to live with, they are the results of action or inaction that effect us and others, after the events that lead to them, but should intentions be considered to greater extent than they often are?
If someone else’s actions result in you becoming worse off in some way, either economically or emotionally, should you focus on what that person intended to happen or on their execution and consequently, the consequences you are left with.
For instance, if a friend is trying to do you a good turn, by say, reuniting you with a relative you’ve lost contact with, and as surprise, arranges a surprise meeting, but when you’re confronted with that person, you are angry having been put in an uncomfortable situation. Should you react to the consequences of their intervention, or focus on their good intention.
If a friend convinces you to invest money into a business venture, but they fail to make a success of it, and it ends up costing you your investment, do you fixate on their inept execution or their intention of doing their best to make a success of the venture.
I guess, how the friend deals with their failings, in either of the situations detailed above, has some baring on your response. If in the latter example, the friend tries to hide the fact that the business is failing, is dishonest about their business acumen, doesn’t show remorse when it all goes pear shaped, or isn’t prepared to try to make the situation right, will affect how you feel about it, and them, in the end.
It’s true that many people will take a balanced, considered view, appreciating all the aspects that contributed to the failing, but there will equally be those that fixate on the consequences, and find it difficult to look beyond these.
Empathy and compassion is required in order to be able take the other persons view, and to be able to seriously consider their intent, at least as much as their inadequate or inappropriate execution. This can be especially difficult in the wake consequences that negatively impact you.
Empathy and compassion, come naturally to some people, but require some development in others. It’s important to remember that we have all been guilty of doing things that didn’t turn out as planned, and which impacted other people.
Generally, when things go wrong, the intention is seldom for it to be so, however we should always be mindful of our actions and their impact on others, and generally they will impact someone else at some point. Think your actions through thoroughly before taking them, and be more empathetic to others when their actions don’t turn out as intended.