Well-Intentioned Assholes

Published on November 6th, 2020

Barking erupts as my dog, Linus, wakes up from a deep slumber to thrash himself off the couch before attempting to sprint to the front door. Of course, we have hardwood floors, so his paws keep slipping as you hear a constant stream of his claws scraping over and over again. Eventually, he gets to the front window to let out his loudest, scariest barks.

All because a mailman ringed the doorbell to drop off an Amazon package.

No matter how many times this happens with guests, other dog owners will try and downplay it. “It’s what dogs do! He’s just protecting his territory.” Linus has been a member of the family for 10 years. And this has happened enough times that I’ve come to accept this as a general truth. I’ve also accepted that it is too late to change (e.g., “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks”).

In his defense, he’s trying to do a good thing. If someone was trying to invade our home, isn’t he being a good boy by alerting us immediately?

Yes. So his intentions are good.

But those good intentions do little to stop the bad feelings in certain situations. Imagine you are trying to have a relaxing date night in or that you just spent the good part of an hour getting your kiddo to sleep. There is a peace and stillness that immediately ends when the equivalent of ambulance sirens kick-off. Worse, when he’s in the thick of it, he’s almost impossible to slow down. He’s on a mission, and he refuses to hear commands to stand down and be quiet. After all… there is clear and imminent danger from the FedEx delivery person, right?

And so it goes with people.

It can even appear innocent and benign.

The helicopter parent has great intentions for their kids. They want them to succeed and to be safe. Yet the resulting scrutiny of their every movement can lead to anxiety, which can be detrimental to their learning. The lack of space to fail and figure things out on their own can result in a lack of confidence that they can figure things out on their own.

It can then ramp up to be quite harmful.

The enabler that keeps preventing the addict from hitting rock bottom.

The politician that passes prohibition laws to protect citizens from themselves.

The friend that tells you not to pursue that dream because they are afraid you will fail, and they want to save you from the pain of disappointment.

The social justice warrior who will slander and shut down any debate on a topic.

The doctor that already “figured out” your diagnosis in 5 minutes. And rather than actually listen to you to understand your situation and concerns, you are shuffled out with a prescription in hand for a pill that will only address the symptoms.

Most of these people really mean well. They may even think they have the right answers and are doing a good job. But there can be a large gap between their positive desires and the negative consequences.

Try to point this out, and they can become defensive and attack back. How dare you question their motives, their intentions. Don’t you know how hard they are working? How are they doing this… for you?

And so my dog continues to bark at benign doorbells. He’s a good boy. He’s doing a good job. However, after the 100th time and without any change in behavior, he’s an asshole. Still, I love him just the same.

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About Rick Manelius

Quick Stats: CTO of Contact Mapping. Author of Winning the Lottery Within. Graduated from MIT in '03 (BS) and '09 (PhD). Life hacker and peak performance enthusiast. This blog is my experiment in creative writing, self-expression, and sharing what I've learned along my journey. For more information, read my full bio here or contact me.