Most of you have heard the expression, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions!” I heard that saying as a child and often wondered what it meant, but now I understand it very clearly. Many of us think that if our intentions are good, that should be worth something. But there is one major challenge with that concept. No one can see your intentions. The only thing that can actually be seen is your behavior. Let’s think about it!
Intentions represent the motivation and the attitude behind our actions. However, you can have the purest motives in the world, but if your behavior is not communicated clearly, then things will be misunderstood. No one has the ability to read your mind. You may have the best of intentions and your motives may be pure, but again, simply having a good intention does not compensate for misunderstood behavior. Perhaps an illustration will help.
I live in Atlanta, Georgia. Interstate 75 runs right through the heart of the city. Suppose I want to go to Miami, Florida. I can get on I-75 and head NORTH with every intention of wanting to get to Miami. I can pack me a nice lunch and even ask God to watch over me and give me a safe trip. The only problem is I will never get there because my behavior does not match my words. My good intentions are worthless because I am heading in the wrong direction! This may sound like a strong statement, but I have taken the word “intentions” out of my vocabulary because I have come to believe my intentions (and yours) are worthless. My behavior and actions are what matter.
If you owe someone money and you promise to pay them on the 15th of next month, you may have every intention of paying it. You may have a good attitude about paying them. You might write them a note to tell them you are going to pay what you owe. You could even call them on the phone before the 15th to say you are going to pay them. But, the person who is waiting to receive the money is only looking for one thing – whether or not you actually fulfill your promise to pay them on the 15th just like you said you would.
An unexpected event could occur which would cause you to be unable to pay what you intended. The reason may be legitimate and very understandable, but no one can read your intentions. They can only see your behavior. As the old saying goes, “Actions speak louder than words…or intentions.”
Strangely, we tend to want others to judge us by our intentions, yet we judge everyone else by their behavior. It would be better to judge ourselves by our behavior and offer grace to others and judge them by their intentions. Unfortunately, that is not the way it usually works.
How often do we try to explain a situation to another person from our perspective? We say things like, “Well, I thought you would understand what I was trying to do. I had good intentions!” Or, “I did not mean to communicate that in an offensive way. At least I had good intentions!” Or, “I know I promised to pay you on a certain day and I had every intention of doing so, but some unexpected events occurred.” I can see some of you nodding your head as you are reading those statements. We have all had them said to us and perhaps at one time or another we have said them to other people. Again, it comes down to your behavior. Your intentions do not matter. You can have the best of intentions and make all of the promises in the world, but in the end, people are going to watch what you do. And that is why the road to hell is paved with good intentions!
I encourage you to ask yourself if your behavior is actually demonstrating your intentions. Remember that no one can read your mind. No one has any idea what your intentions are. Even if they are noble and great, they must still be backed up by right behavior, keeping your word, good deeds and quality actions.
Consider this concept for just one week in your personal life. Whether at home, school, work or play, you will see your relationships grow and become healthier when you begin to understand the difference between intentions and behavior. I can assure you that if your behavior demonstrates honesty, integrity, character and commitment when dealing with others, they will automatically know that you have good intentions. The proof will be in the pudding!
Tip: There is a big difference between intentions and behaviors!
Have a great week! God bless you!
Dr. Robert A. Rohm