Monday, May 16, 2011

Questioning Motivations

Let's say that Person A is cleaning out her closet, finds some clothes that she doesn't wear anymore, and decides to donate the clothes to charity. Meanwhile, Person B has been feeling really bored and frustrated all week.  She doesn't like where her life is going - she wants to do something much more fun and exciting and rebel against anyone who tries to get in her way.  Just when she gets home, her mom starts criticizing her appearance.  She's had enough.  She empties her closet into a trash bag to donate to charity and heads to the mall to buy some new clothes that reflect the person she really wants to be.

I've been in Person B's shoes a lot, and a lot of people will judge you when you do something like this in anger.  But my question is this: What difference does it make?  Won't people still benefit from the donated clothes regardless of the reason that they were donated?  If Person B had donated someone else's clothes without their permission, then that would be wrong, but if the action is good, then we have no reason judge the reason behind the action.

The actions that we take can have either positive effects, negative effects, or no effects on other people. The only time we should question reasoning is if the action itself is harmful. It makes a difference if you punched someone to hurt them, or to get away because they tried to attack you, because the action harmed someone else. But in the case of the clothes, the action actually benefited other people.  Here is a neutral example:

Let's say Person B breaks up with her significant other and decides that from now on, she's never wearing red again because it was their favorite color. Many people will judge this decision as silly and stupid and immature. But again, what difference does it make? What impact does her not wearing red actually have on anybody else?  It is perfectly acceptable to not wear red because you don't like the color.  How does it suddenly become unacceptable because someone has a different reason? We have no right to judge someone for acting based on their own feelings when the act itself does nothing wrong.

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