Good Intentions

You know what they say about the path to Hell being paved with good intentions, right? Here is a recent microcosm from our family that illustrates the point.

Ally had a pretty demanding project this week for her debate class.  Her assignment was to argue that the Arizona Immigration Law violates the rights of US citizens.  She had to develop three key arguments and then prepare for rebuttals to those positions. Debating the Arizona Immigration Law is a daunting enough task for otherwise rational and intelligent adults, so this assignment concerned us.

Enter the parental help center.

Maggie took on researching this issue and framing the issues for Ally.  Note, I did not say “helping,” although that was the initial intent.  She enlisted me (based on a presumption of legal ability) to help organize the arguments.  I’d like to tell you we recognized the slippery slope we were treading and pulled back immediately, but we didn’t see it at first.

Sometime last night, we realized we had missed the boat. In our zeal to help, we had become too involved. Now, I don’t want to paint us in too negative a light; Ally was working with Maggie on the research and I was explaining these grand legal concepts to her, but it was co-laboring rather than us guiding Ally.

To her credit, when we recognized the fact we were too involved and raised the issue with her, Ally was appreciative of our candor and said she had thought the same thing.

I had an interesting thought about the situation this morning.  I’ll try to make it work in a printed format, but I’m not sure I can articulate it clearly enough.  Anyway, it occurred to me that Maggie and I were, essentially, like the government and Ally was part of our citizenry.  In our efforts to benefit our citizen, we had actually been moving toward a dependent relationship.  In other words, rather than offering guidance and support, we offered help in a way that limited her own ability to develop and grow.

I see the same issue with some of our government policies.  I think too often the handout becomes the hand that holds you back.  I’d like to see us develop less sense of entitlement and a greater sense of personal potential and accountability.  But how can we do that? I don’t know for sure, but I don’t think the answer is in politics.

I’m not one of those folks who demonizes the other side.  I am generally conservative, but I also am often standing out in left field on some issues.  My basic filter is to try to discern the most Christ-like response, whether the issue is abortion or immigration.   This means I do not give any party my allegiance.  I am an issue-by-issue guy, which is frustrating because I agree with almost no one on the few issues that are important to me (note, if you ever want to really come across as smug and condescending in conversations with your political friends, try this route; my friends seem to think it really does the trick – insert your own emotie here to connote this is an attempted joke).

However, I also recognize that people on both sides of the aisle usually have good intent.  Many reach wildly opposing conclusions based on their attempts to live out their faith.  That’s okay.   I just wish politics in this country were less about controlling power and more about empowering people.

I’ll have more to say about the two-party system later.  For now, I just wanted to say that our little government slipped too far into the assistance program world this week, although we had good intent.  When we recognized the problem and corrected, our little citizen was happier and able to achieve more on her own.  I believe there is a lesson there.


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