Intent is a word that I have been tossing around in my head all morning.
If you are anything like me, a conversation like this has gone on in your house:
Boy Child: “I didn’t intend to knock over the Christmas tree. I’m sorry, Mom.”
Me: “But surely you did not intend NOT to knock over the Christmas tree, you were doing handstands right next to it.”
You try having that discussion with a straight face, I dare you.
But intentions are two fold, aren’t they? On the one hand you have the outcome that you intended to happen and on the other you have the outcome that you did not intend to prevent. Sometimes they are equally important and they have a wide range of applications.
For instance, I did not intend to gain back the 30 pounds I lost 2 years ago, but we have established, in my last post, that I did not intend to stop it either.
We also get ourselves into trouble when we assume someone else’s intent. Even in our closest relationships in life, we do not always know what outcome the other person is looking for in their actions. We tend to assume we know and we can do a lot of damage that way.
I read this story today (I will put a link at the bottom) where this young man kept getting annoyed because a college mate would always put stuff on his desk and then have to clear it off when he arrived. This was followed by a high five. The student was irritated every day. He could not understand why the other man would not just keep his stuff to himself and he really did not want to high five first thing in the morning, until he showed up late and heard the man telling another student that the spot was reserved for his good friend. He had been holding the desk for him all that time and considered him a friend.
The story really motivated me to look deep into the intent behind people’s actions, because the truth of the matter is that we are not all walking zombies as the media would have you believe. We are people, and we do things that matter to us. My son wanted to do handstands, that was important to him. It was not important to him that the tree remain standing, because he was not focused on it. It was important to me to feel numb and not important at the time to watch my weight. It was important to the student to sit in the same desk every day, and maybe it was important to him to have something to be irritated at first thing in the morning, but the other man was motivated to be kind to another human and make a friend in class.
So maybe we need to look deeper. Maybe the guy we went on the date with last week who wore too much cologne and laughed too loudly at his own jokes was nervous. Maybe his intention was to mask that. Maybe when we feel our parents are overstepping their bounds, their intentions are to help us not make the same mistakes they did, not to annoy us. And honestly, maybe life needs more handstands and high fives.
So, I’m going to stop and appreciate them and try to figure out just where they come from.
Stronger Than Yesterday,