“The question should be, is it worth doing, not can it be done?” (Allard K. Lowenstein).
MOST OF US WOULD DO WELL TO CONSIDER MORE CAREFULLY THE “WHY” OF OUR ACTIONS. In other words, what is the purpose of what we do? What are we trying to accomplish with our various activities? If we concentrate solely on our “means” and not on our “ends,” we are bound to do harmful things. We may do them efficiently, but if they shouldn’t be done at all, then our efficiency simply gets us to the wrong place faster. Lowenstein’s point is a good one: “The question should be, is it worth doing, not can it be done?”
Our point is that “ends” are important. But the first thing that needs to be recognized is that ends are not all-important. There is no such thing as a goal so great that it justifies any means that might be used to achieve it. No matter how glorious the goal, principles of right and wrong must be taken into account when we’re deciding what our tactics are going to be. We are not free to “do evil that good may come,” to borrow the words of Paul the Apostle.
But to return to the importance of our ends, I suggest that we need to think more about our ultimate ends. We do need to have short-term objectives to keep us working, but these lesser ends should always be examined in the light of our long-range purpose. When we focus totally on our smaller goals, we lose touch with this bigger purpose. So we must step back and recall what end we’re working toward.
Also, I suggest that we must maintain consistency between our means and our ends. If we’re not careful, we may find ourselves paying lip service to very noble ends but engaging in actions that are directly opposed to those ends. Integrity and wholeness consist, in large part, of harmony between our professed ends and our actual means.
You can be sure of one thing, however, and that is that the means you employ in your life will take you to whatever destination is the logical result of those means. You can’t travel the road to one city and arrive at another city. To get to that city, you’ll have to change roads. So the question of our ends — and the means we use to get there — is a question of tremendous consequence.
“The means prepare the end, and the end is what the means have made it” (John Morley).