The road to hell is paved with good intentions
Another interpretation to consider would be; One is naive and acts in good faith with no altruistic objective. It merely seems as the proper or even sensical thing to do. In this scenario the act, regardless of its virtue, leads the actor to unintended negative consequences.
Example: "I told my boss I replaced the toner in the copy machine. Only to be lectured that even though the quality wasn't good, he had intended on its use for another month."
The exact origin of this proverb is unknown and several variations exist. It appeared in full in a London newspaper in 1828 where it was referred to as a Portuguese proverb. It was also published in Henry G. Bohn's A Hand-book of Proverbs in 1855.
An 1811 English version of one of Rambach's books includes, "The road to hell is paved with good resolutions", a translation of his 1730 German text "Der Weg zur Höllen sey mit lauter gutem Vorsatz gepflastert." An earlier iteration, "Hell is full of good meanings and wishes", was published in 1670 in A Collection of English Proverbs collected by John Ray.
In Franco Zeffirelli's 1968 adaptation of Romeo and Juliet, the character Mercutio says, "The best intentions pave the way to Hell," a line which does not appear in Shakespeare's play.
A resemblance can be found in Ecclesiasticus 21:10, "The way of sinners is made plain with stones, but at the end thereof is the pit of hell." The proverb is commonly misattributed to Bernard of Clairvaux who supposedly wrote (c. 1150), "L'enfer est plein de bonnes volontés ou désirs" (hell is full of good wishes or desires). This citation was made in 1640, some five hundred years after his death, and this text has not been found in any of his published works.
A common meaning of the phrase is that wrongdoings or evil actions are often undertaken with good intentions; or that good intentions, when acted upon, may have unintended consequences. An example is the introduction of invasive species, like the Asian carp introduced into the US, which has become a nuisance due to unexpected proliferation and behavior.
A different interpretation of the saying is that individuals may have the intention to undertake good actions but nevertheless fail to take action. This inaction may be due to procrastination, laziness or other subversive vice. As such, the saying is an admonishment that a good intention is meaningless unless followed through.
Psychological studies of the effect of intention upon task completion by professors Peter Gollwitzer, Paschal Sheeran and Sheina Orbell indicate that there is some truth in the proverb. Perfectionists are especially prone to having their intentions backfire in this way. Some have argued that people are more likely to interpret their own actions as more well-intended than the actions of others.
Attempts to improve the ethical behaviour of groups are often counterproductive. If legislation is used for such an attempt, people observe the letter of the law rather than improve the desired behaviour. The threat of punishment may make behavior less rather than more ethical. Studies of business ethics indicate that most wrongdoing is not due directly to wickedness but is performed by people who did not plan to err.
Stephen Garrard Post, writing about altruism, suggests that good intentions are often not what they seem and that mankind normally acts from less worthy, selfish motives—"If the road to hell is paved with good intentions, it is partly because that is the road they generally start out on."
Authors who have used the phrase include Charlotte Brontë, Lord Byron, Randy Travis, Samuel Johnson, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Sir Walter Scott, Søren Kierkegaard, and Karl Marx. Ozzy Osbourne used the term in the song "Tonight" on his album Diary of a Madman.
In the movie Highway to Hell, the phrase is taken literally to create one particular scene. The Good Intentions Paving Company has a team of Andy Warhols who grind good-intentioned souls into pavement. "I was only sleeping with my husband's boss to advance his career", says one. The figurative meaning of the phrase is a big part of the plot too, as several characters offer to help the two protagonists on the Road to Hell, but all of them have ulterior motives.
In the Discworld novel Eric by Terry Pratchett, as the wizard Rincewind and teenaged demonologist Eric Thursley escape Pandemonium, they notice that the individual cobbles on the Road to Hell have good intentions written on them. These included "for the good of the kids", "I meant it for the best" and "we are equal opportunities employers".
The phrase is also referenced in title card of Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda episode "Forced Perspective".
The phrase is also used by Lauryn Hill in Mr. Intentional
The phrase is also used in the 2020 "Living the Dream" by Five Finger Death Punch on their F8 album.
A similar phrase, "our best intentions pave the way to hell", was used in 2013 film Romeo & Juliet by Mercutio after he was stabbed by Tybalt.
This phrase was used in Jurassic Park 3 when Billy steals the raptor eggs to fund his University Department.
The phrase was alluded to in both the title and lyrical poetry in the Joanna Newsom's track "Good Intentions Paving Co." on the 2010 album Have One on Me.
Staind used the phrase in their 2011 song "Something to Remind You".
|Wikiquote has quotations related to The road to hell is paved with good intentions.|
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