Our Eyes Were Opened

Create a good rather than eliminate an evil

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Try to create a good rather than eliminate an evil.

When we try to do something good, we often discover that we have unintended consequences.  In our efforts to do good, we create a negative underbelly.

Getting rid of segregation was a great thing to do. Very few people believed that “separate but equal” worked. Many good people lost their lives in trying to change an oppressive system. Others suffered jail time and certainly fear as they worked to right an institutional evil.

However, some of the people whom the change agents were trying to help were hurt in the process. For example, I became friends with an African-American woman who had been elected president of the senior class of her high school the year that integration came to her school district.  Rather than being able to serve as the president with all the privileges and responsibilities that entailed, she had to go to a previously all white high school where she was not wanted. Her former high school had been turned into an integrated middle school.

After all these years, she still harbored grief and anger at what had happened to her. I don’t know if anything could have been done differently but in eliminating an evil, she had been harmed.

Some black business people were also harmed because they lost their customer base.

When we want to do good, let’s try to look at the unintended consequences and try to reduce them as much as possible. Let’s create a good rather than eliminate an evil.


Author: bethltempleton

Beth is founder and CEO of Our Eyes Were Opened, an organization that teaches people about poverty so that they may reach out with wisdom and compassion.

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