The most perplexing form of evil, and especially so for all idealists, is that kind of evil which comes out of our efforts to do good. Perhaps when we try to do good without love, we create evil. – William Irwin Thompson
Thompson is on to something. We can create evil by attempting to do good.
Much has been written in the past couple of years about bad relief efforts. Numerous books are now available on the negative impact of doing good in the wrong way. The positive in this is that those selfsame books also show us how to do good in a better way.
There’s a common thread that I perceive in all these new works on helping the poor and hungry. Charity can become toxic when it is not built on loving relationships and base in a real sense of community. Doing good has to be built around people, not on programs.
Relief efforts that deal with just the symptoms of poverty create more harm than good. A welfare system which encourages dependency entraps generations of poor into perpetuating lifestyles that eviscerate self respect and ambition, even as it creates a false sense of entitlement. Such a system creates evil.
Good intentions do not guarantee good results. I agree with Thompson on this point. The secret to accomplishing the good we seek is to love each other enough to know each other. It’s far easier said than done, yet the cost of doing good without love is far higher than we might imagine. And that cost is going up every day.