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  • Writer's pictureMike Woods

ACTIONS VS INTENTIONS

I’ve noticed a recurring theme when helping people get through conflict. Firstly, we need to recognize that we all have an inherent bias; we are intimately familiar with our point of view. Our view of any situation is exactly that: our view. To not recognize that there are other points of view is foolish and narcissistic. If we were sitting across from each other in a coffee shop and I held my hand up palm facing you and asked you to describe what you see, you would have a very different description looking at the palm of my hand than I would have looking at the back of my hand. Certainly, there would be several similarities. We would both see the main body of my hand with five digits protruding. However, where you see fingerprints, I see fingernails. Where you see a palm with a life line, I see the back of a hand with some hair and a few veins. The question is who’s right and who’s wrong? Well, the simple reality is we are both right and we are both wrong. The lesson is that our perspective is not necessarily the whole picture.


This focus on our perspective often leads to conflict. We stubbornly dig in and want the world to adapt and validate our views. Because we become unbending, our views of others and their actions become distorted. We become completely focused on what others do and pay very little attention to what their intentions are. The truth of the matter is that the vast majority of the time those close to us have absolutely no intention of hurting us. Our friends and family members are not going about devising strategies to inflict pain on us. Most of the time their intentions are good or at least neutral. So how is it that we get wounded and feel attacked? Because we judge others solely on our interpretation of their actions and we don’t invest any time in trying to determine their intentions. Often, people close to us are trying to do what they believe is right, but they simply miss the mark. The frank reality is that we also make those same errors. We do something that seemed right at the time but upon further reflection, or looking at it from someone else’s point of view, we realize that maybe we made a mistake.


What do we do when we make a mistake? Often we utter the often repeated phrases, “I didn’t mean to… I didn’t mean to hurt you… I didn’t mean to do something wrong…. I didn’t mean to make a mistake.” Yet we did those things. When faced with the shortcomings in our relationship skills we should say we are sorry and ask forgiveness. We want to be treated with grace. We want others to judge us not by our actions but judge us by our intentions. We didn’t mean to hurt them, therefore they should not be hurt.



Here’s the point. If we want others to be understanding and consider our intentions and not just our actions, we have to have the same grace for them. We need to be understanding and forgiving and realize that those around us are doing their best. Sometimes they miss the mark, just like us. Welcome to life on planet earth. Let’s quit being so quick to malign others and condemn everything they do and understand they are probably a lot like us. Try to unpack with them what their intentions were. You might be pleasantly surprised that they wanted something good, but they didn’t go about it in the right way.


-Mike Woods



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