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the end does not justify the means

the end does not justify the means


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Human nature is naturally focused on outcomes(the end does not justify the means)

Human nature is naturally focused on outcomes. We can deal with a difficult, sad story if it has a happy ending. We love when our favorite team wins even if the game was “ugly” at times. Conflict that is effectively resolved, or peace that has been accomplished, often has a way of overshadowing some really challenging times.

the end does not justify the means
the end does not justify the means

But as young kids(the end does not justify the means)

But as young kids, we learned that the “end doesn’t justify the means.”

In other words, a positive outcome isn’t, well,

a good thing if the methods used were dishonest or harmful to others.

If a team won a big game (of which winning is good),

but used dishonest means (perhaps by deflating footballs), the outcome itself is tarnished.

If people gave gifts to the underprivileged,

but did so by stealing them from others,

stealing would undermine the charitable act.
Ultimately, the underlying message of the adage is that

only one thing matters more than outcome.

And that is how we got there, including the reasons and processes we used to accomplish what we did. Although society has a way of still rewarding and idolizing those who succeed despite dubious,

or downright despicable means, the saying itself still rings true,

and science supports that reinforcing good means versus preferred outcomes does pay off.

For example, studies indicate that when we praise effort over performance in the classroom, students end up actually doing better academically and psychologically.

On the contrary, cheating or avoiding hard classes might keep your GPA high, but using these means never justifies the end result.

as often occurs(the end does not justify the means)

Yet as often occurs, one principle can suggest a related one.

Thus, I make the case that although the “end doesn’t justify the means”, the “means can always justify the end.” To further explain, I must first elaborate on the word “means.”

By means, I am not just talking about the behavioral methods by which something is accomplished,

but also the underlying purpose(s) that is undertaken.

Let’s use an example of a longstanding, serious personal conflict with someone else.

Many people, especially guys in relationships, are taught that it is best to “avoid the conflict” [means] to keep the peace [end].

On the surface, this might seem like a noble, wise route to take.

But for most people and circumstances,

this strategy backfires because people become more bitter, disengaged, and ultimately unable to effectively resolve an issue that is central to their well-being and that of their relationship.


although it is difficult (and can often increase conflict and uneasiness in the short-term),

addressing the conflict respectfully, transparently, and empathetically [means] to improve the well-being of the individuals and relationship involved [purpose] is often the key to resolving a conflict [end].

As the example denotes(the end does not justify the means)

As the example denotes, the key to effective “means” are utilizing respectful,

transparent, and empathetic methods for an underlying purpose of bettering not just self,

but others and the situation as a whole. Certain areas of service or action necessitate a specific level of competence (e.g., rewiring a home or performing surgery),

and part of using virtuous means is being transparent and responsible when taking on these tasks.

But many of our daily undertakings involve a deed that requires no level of expertise,

but behooves us to consider the “means” we are using.

And if we are using means that adhere to the guidelines I mentioned,

then no matter how horrible the outcome, the “means do justify the end”.

For example, if an adolescent feels called to speak to his father honestly, respectfully,

and compassionately about how the father’s drinking is affecting family members,

there is no guarantee the outcome will be good;

in fact, the father might physically or verbally lash out towards him or others,

and the outcome might seem anything but positive. But the means for what was done would justify any end that occurs.
In saying all this,

what we are ultimately trying to teach our kids (and embrace ourselves) are the virtues of courage and altruism (unselfishness).

Both often require the spirit of one to enable the other,

but they also entail a deep abiding pursuit of what is honest,

true, and good.

Sometimes this pursuit leads to what are seemingly negative and uncomfortable outcomes,

and so it is easy to be tempted to take a different course.

the end does not justify the means
the end does not justify the means

as a high school senior(the end does not justify the means)

I remember as a high school senior standing by as classmates teased and bullied a younger peer;

I did nothing because I was afraid of how it might affect my own social life.

My means [i.e., doing nothing] didn’t justify my end [remaining in good social standing].
But as I look back,

what I lacked was real courage, and a deep sense of empathy for another person’s plight.

I was too concerned about myself to be willing to use the means that could have made the difference for him.

The thing was, too,

I had the status and respect at this point in my high school career to impact the situation, and yet I just stood idly by and acted as if it was just part of what happens.

And although it is a memory that has somewhat faded,

when it does resurface

when it does resurface, it still burns because I know I did wrong in doing nothing at all.
In the end,

I want my kids to do better than I did, and respond transparently, respectfully, empathetically,

and ultimately courageously in whatever way they are called, even if the outcome is uncertain.

There is no guarantee it won’t result in heartache and tragedy.

But if as a community, we focused less on outcomes, and more on the process,

I believe the means would not only justify the end, but the end would justify the means,

and both would look a whole lot better. When a good “end” connects with a good “means”,

it is a beautiful,

rich reality because the parameter for success is no longer predicated on much of what we can’t control, but just on what we can.

It doesn’t mean that people stop winning or losing, or achieving or failing,

or thriving or struggling. It just means that everyone can all unite on a more transcendent goal—doing what’s right for the right reasons in hope of a better end.

morality(the end does not justify the means)

If you compromise your morality to achieve a material outcome,

the ends do not justify the means.

However, if you can achieve a high spiritual goal by doing something

that is considered unethical in terms of mundane morality the end, ironically, justifies the means.
This is certainly not the norm,

but there are some historical instances.

One example is the building of the Sri Ranganath Temple in South India.

The Temple was built “Robin Hood” style by powerful priests who used their mystic powers to defraud corrupt kings.

The general people, who the priestly order tries to educate in spiritual ethics,

look up to priests as role models.

It is therefore counter-productive to

the goals of the priestly class to behave in an immoral way to establish dharma or right living.
Mundane morality – right versus wrong/good versus bad – is relative.

Morality changes over time. What is considered good today is bad tomorrow,

and vice versa. Today’s terrorist is tomorrow’s saint.

Mandela was on trial for treason in 1967.

He is lauded as a saint in 2016.

the end does not justify the means
the end does not justify the means


Gandhi(the end does not justify the means)

Gandhi was considered a troublemaker in the 1920s and 1930s.

Today he is a secular saint. What if he had died in 1928?

He would have died an unknown struggle martyr.

There would be no Gandhi the icon.
There are people who have no deep spiritual beliefs

but who are very dharmic or very moral.

They give in charity, they do not harm other living beings,

they are faithful spouses and they are environmentally conscious.

On the other hand, you have people who follow a meaningful spiritual practice in their lives,

but who do things that are considered immoral.

Or, to take an extreme case,

you have saints who live morally “perfect” lives but who are socially ostracised by one scandal. Most people live scandalous lives 24/7 if we compare them to exalted saints.
The highest spiritual goal is to love God. All other moral and ethical points-of-view are fine print,

the t’s and c’s so to speak.

This is not a license for religious or spiritual people to act above the laws of religion.

Reaching the platform of goodness, which includes piety and high morality, is essential in the pursuit of this high idea.
First, become moral. Then tell me about love of God.

the end does not justify the means
the end does not justify the means


The best example I can think of would be Radiation therapy and Chemotherapy

. Both treatments kill healthy cells alongside cancer cells.

These treatments actually damage the patient’s body, causing serious side effects to it.

So far, it’s the only reliable treatment for cancer. My uncle is a cancer survivor.

When he fought against Nasopharynx cancer

, he went through both radiation and chemo therapy.

He was miserable, lost a lot of weight,

had most of his teeth falling out because of the radiation treatment through his mouth and nose.

He couldn’t swallow anything solid, even drinking fluids caused him a lot of pain.

It’s a painful procedure but the alternative would be death.
So sometimes the end (not dying) does justify the means (exposing yourself to harmful substances).



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