Best of Intentions, Worst of Results
You know without a doubt that you’re right. You are sure that you know what your friends should do. Yet is insisting you are right always the best move?
There are times when you know that you’re right. There is no question about it—you have the answer, you know the best way to handle a situation. All that anyone has to do is ask you, and it’ll be taken care of.
It may sound arrogant, but that is how we tend to think. True, we may not think we know the answers to all of the world’s problems, but we know the solution for many of the problems of those around us. After seeing them go through whatever problem they’re going through for a little while, we might tell them our answer in an effort to help them—and if they disagree, we may try to pound it into them because we know that our answer is the answer.
Right intentions + wrong means
Often when we give our advice, it’s with the best of intentions. However, when you take right intentions and add wrong means, it equals a disaster.
There is a story in the Bible that demonstrates to me what happens when the right intentions collide with the wrong means. In the book of Job, we read of a man who was severely and brutally attacked by Satan. Job lost everything—his children, his wealth, his servants and finally even his health.
After they heard of his distress, three of Job’s friends rushed over to comfort him (Job 2:11-13). For seven days they sat with Job and didn’t say a word because his pain was so great. There is no doubt about it—Job had three good friends.
Then Job cursed the day of his birth. After that, one of Job’s friends, Eliphaz, started to talk to him.
Eliphaz wanted to help his friend. I’m sure the last thing that he wanted to do was to add to Job’s sorrows. However, he was using the wrong means when he combined his human understanding of God’s plan with his strange dream and tried to give Job advice (Job 4:12-21).
Eliphaz knew that he was right when he told Job that the innocent didn’t suffer and that Job should repent of whatever great sin he had committed and all would be well. It seems Eliphaz’s heart was in the right place, but instead of helping his friend, he became a “miserable comforter” (Job 16:2). The same three friends who had sat supportively in silence with Job for seven days were now making him more miserable.
What had changed? Their actions. Instead of silently supporting Job, they were now telling him the answers to all of his problems. How were they to know that Satan was tormenting Job in an attempt to destroy him and to get him to curse God? They couldn’t have known.
Yet they still handled it the wrong way. They thought that they had the answer—that they knew what was wrong with Job—and they were trying to force Job to accept their answers.
What did God say about their efforts? “My wrath is aroused against you and your two friends, for you have not spoken of Me what is right, as My servant Job has” (Job 42:7). They may have had the best of intentions, but they had gone about it the wrong way and had insulted God in the process.
A quiet friend
“There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death,” wise King Solomon wrote (Proverbs 14:12; 16:25). Humans decided in the Garden of Eden that they would choose for themselves what was right and wrong (Genesis 3:22). Unlike God, however, man is flawed and gets his idea of right and wrong mixed up frequently.
We think we know the answer. We may even know without a doubt that we know the answers to someone else’s problems. Yet do we really know? The Bible says that pride goes before a fall (Proverbs 16:18).
Instead of assuming that we know the solution to someone else’s problem, we should humbly go to God in prayer and ask for wisdom (James 1:5).
When did Job’s friends do the most good? When they quietly gave him their love and support. When did they do the most hurt? When they attempted to force him to see things their way.
It is a pitfall of human nature to combine the best of intentions with the wrong means and to produce the worst results. Our relationships can improve if, instead, we are quiet friends who really help those in need.
For more about building good relationships, see the section on “Relationships: Making Everyday Life Better.”