Sometimes they seem to postively ooze with goodness -- improvement or rehabilitation. Someone believes that something must be done, that the current situation is intolerable in one way or another and, like a swelling chorus, the notes take on a sweetness and force. End the war, end the addiction, revise the beliefs ... when you see the results of the current approach, well, it's obvious that something has to be done. And it may be so: Revision is called for.
What brought this to mind was a small discourse elsewhere on the intrinsic goodness of rehabilitation. A particular man had hurt a lot of others and showed little if any sign of reforming. There was always the possibility of rehabilitation, the writer argued, and rehabilitation was a method worth pursuing. It had a kindly or possibly compassionate ring to it.
The difficulty with believing in rehabilitation or improvement is not that it's somehow mistaken. The trouble is the belief anyone might bring to bear when making improvements. It strikes me as OK to offer whatever helping hand might be possible. But the baseline reality -- when helping others -- is that they will have to want to help themselves, be willing to revise, make their own best efforts. What anyone else thinks or does is secondary, no matter how 'compassionate.'
It is the deliciousness of kindness or compassion that deserves our attention, I think. It is one thing to offer a helping hand but it is quite another to imagine our helping hand is somehow good or necessary or praise-worthy. Social agreements may be pleasant, but it is better to have a clear mind when considering improvement or rehabilitation. Best, I think, is to offer a helping hand in words or action, without expectation, without praise, without blame. This is what I do when faced with these circumstances. Maybe things get better. Maybe worse. And still, this is just what I do. The people or circumstances addressed are bound to change, but whether they will change according to my bias ... well, who knows?
It's not easy to pay attention to goodness. But it is worth the effort.