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Your intentions don’t matter

For the longest time, I’ve been telling myself that intentions matter more than anything. Actions are justifiable if intentions seem pure. After a rude awakening, my conclusion stands: intentions don’t matter; actions and apologies do.

Von Sina Schmid

«But my intentions were pure» – cool. The person I hurt couldn’t care less about my intentions. There’s this quote I can’t find, but the gist of it is something like, «You can excuse your behavior because you know your intention, yet we rarely extend others the same courtesy.»

There are two ways to look at this. Firstly, we could extend everybody we encounter the same courtesy and assume their intentions are always pure, or if not pure, at least not super rude. Technically, this seems compassionate and kind. Sadly, this is only compassionate and kind to everyone else. At the end of the day, it results in rationalizing our feelings and finally strips us of our need to just feel – feel upset, hurt, offended, and so forth. Been there, done that.

Or we could judge everyone, including ourselves, by their actions. Most people already judge everyone around them by their actions and nothing more. It’s easy and straightforward. Obviously, there are instances when intentions still matter more than actions. When we’re talking about our closest friends and family, whom we know well, sometimes judging by intention is still fair enough. Not when it comes to ourselves, though.

There’s this saying I’ve been confronted with: «You don’t get to decide how others feel because of your actions.» Fair enough. I always presumed that because my intentions are pure, my counterpart is not entitled to be upset with me. Or I have no need to apologize since I meant no harm.

Pure intentions are still important and great to strive for. However, at the end of the day, we will most likely be judged by our actions. So if I’m already aware that that’s the case, I might as well act accordingly.

Firstly, I’ve started communicating more in advance. How would this make you feel? Would you appreciate this or not? Not so surprisingly, I’ve learned that I misinterpreted the wants and needs of my loved ones, though well-intended. Through communication, we cleared those misinterpretations, and we’ll hopefully end up with a more peaceful and healthier relationship.

Secondly, I’ve started to apologize more. No matter how cautious you are, you’ll eventually end up upsetting someone. We might as well apologize while we’re at it. In the past, I felt like an apology also signaled that I did something wrong on purpose. I have recently and finally come to understand that a genuine apology goes a long way.

At the end of the day, I believe we owe it to the people around us, and especially the ones we love, to make their lives better, whatever that may look like. If that means being more cautious with my actions and apologizing more? So be it.

20. Dezember 2023

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