“The road to hell is paved with good intentions,” the saying goes. But why is that?
The wisdom here is about our individual and collective capacity for self-deception.
My “good intentions” are often self-righteous, self-serving, self-justifying stories I simply made up. They mask my bad behavior.
I can and do insist my intentions were good despite clear evidence of a negative impact on myself and others. Wrapped in the cloak of care and concern for you, I deny my responsibility.
What I did and did not intend shields me from hearing both your pain and God’s loving invitation to me to change.
Thankfully, Jesus taught us to see the truth about intentions and outcomes. Clinging to my “good intentions” is like washing the outside of a cup, while the inside molds over. Or dousing the whole house in Febreeze while, hidden under the sink, garbage rots.
A beautifully-landscaped, well-paved road to hell is still a road to hell.
God sees through this all-too-human nonsense, and the cross of Jesus gives us eyes to see through it too.
As we move from violence to peacemaking, we must come to terms with pain—our own pain and others’ pain.
Ignored pain molds over. It rots like garbage. Ignored pain is pain not felt, not expressed, not heard, not grieved. And what is not grieved cannot be healed. Ungrieved pain expresses itself as violence. Violence is a symptom of ignored and ungrieved pain.
Peacemaking starts with feeling ignored pain. Feeling pain is an act of Christ-like love and courage. Uncaring words, physical violence, emotional abuse, addiction, and the violence of racism, sexism, and homophobia—all violence can be interrupted by feeling the pain.
Theologian and psychologist John Bradshaw says, in feeling ungrieved pain, “intentions are never relevant. What is relevant is what actually happened.”
What actually happened?
What did you feel?
What did I feel?
Under the influence of Jesus’ own vulnerable grace, we can be the peacemakers who ask questions like these and listen deeply to the responses.
The road to heaven is not paved. It’s muddy and messy and, in places, flooded with tears.
All the same, the road to heaven is crowded with people like you and me. People moved by love uncounted and unearned—from violence toward peacemaking and from grief toward joy.
The Table is a Christian community of transformation:
from greed toward generosity
from violence toward peacemaking
from isolation toward neighborliness
from fear toward faith