Good intentions

A recent discussion elsewhere got me thinking about how often, when discovering that they have hurt someone else, they will say that they ‘had no ill intent’. This is usually done to avoid having to face the consequences of well-meant actions. ‘Cause you know what they say about the road to hell…

Here’s the thing–there’s a good chance that the person you’ve wronged knows nothing bad was intended. But intention of an action has no effect on the consequences of that action. For example, if your car goes off the road and hits a tree, it doesn’t matter if you were trying to ram the tree or if it was purely an accident–your car is still wrecked.

Of course when your actions affect yourself negatively, you will naturally try to avoid those actions in the future. The trouble starts when you’re hurting someone else. “I meant well” does not change the pain that you have caused. It is not an apology. It’s an evasion of reality. When I have been hurt by another person, their intent doesn’t matter to me because I’M STILL HURT. I may or may not temper my anger appropriately, but what I look for is not an explanation of the thought process behind the action. I’m not even necessarily looking for an apology. What I want most in those situations is an acknowledgment of my pain, and an understanding of how I have been wronged.

Focusing on intent is frequently a negating tactic–‘I didn’t mean to hurt you thus your pain is not my fault.’ But if we really care about others, we need to face up to the fact that we HAVE hurt others in these situations. And I know that is painful for us. But if we refuse to see the effects of our actions, then we will continue to harm others. While not malicious, it is not the actions of someone who ‘means well’.

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