People have good intentions for their loved ones. When it comes to kith and kin, the heart’s desires are often in the right place. Mothers wish the best for their children, as couples, siblings, and friends do. Individuals who care about others do not want to physically, emotionally, or mentally harm them.
Sadly though, they often do.
People may intend well but end up being misunderstood as ill-intentioned. Sadly, people often hurt those they care for most despite wanting the opposite. Why does this happen?
For me, the disconnect lies between the carer and the cared for. Specifically, the carer’s beliefs about the needs of the person being cared for differ from their actual needs.
Parenting demonstrates this phenomenon well. Often, parents are misunderstood by children as ill-intentioned and uncaring individuals.
We know parents do everything within their power and means to cater to their children’s needs, or rather, their perceived needs. Parents provide basics like food, healthcare, education, and shelter. Wealthier parents provide material things children want but may not need.
Some resort to harsh means to instill discipline and manners in children. Sadly, such harsh means are poorly received, widening the gap between parents and children. Whether through material means or harsh punishment, parents provide what they believe children need to become good citizens.
The relationship between parents and children mirrors that between governments and citizens. Governments are expected to have good intentions towards citizens, translating into tangible benefits. Yet there is often a disconnect caused by the government’s perception of citizens’ needs differing from their actual needs.
Government initiatives often appear tone-deaf to citizens’ actual hopes and priorities. Policies seemingly aim to fulfill paternalistic notions of “the public good” rather than tackle pressing problems citizens face in their everyday lives. Politicians push lavish vanity projects instead of addressing real needs like job opportunities, affordable housing and lower costs of living. This disconnect – between what governments think citizens need and what citizens actually need – widens when governments fail to listen and understand the lives and struggles of ordinary people.
You wonder: Are these things really what people need? Is the disconnect due to an unwillingness to see actual needs or ignorance of them?
For a relationship to work smoothly, there must be awareness and acknowledgment of true needs. True needs must be respected without assuming or imposing needs that don’t reflect reality. Otherwise, a disconnect between the parties in the relationship is inevitable.