Everyone is familiar with the phrase “actions speak louder than words”. I believe in this whole heartedly, and while I still believe that honesty is important, I don’t think that being honest about what you’re doing is an excuse to do it.
And that’s where a grey area comes in. A lot of people use the phrase actions speak louder than words to uncover some kind of truth – mainly that maybe someone is lying – but I believe that “action speaks louder than intention” is something that should be given equal merit.
Honesty isn’t everything. It’s one of the most important things, and I will always stand by that, but it isn’t everything. And neither is intention, which is also something I believe to be incredibly important. You can do the “right” things, but for the wrong reasons it can lose merit – and that goes vice versa. Doing the wrong thing with the right intentions doesn’t give you a Get Out of Jail card either.
So, whats the hang up? Why do we think that being honest is a green pass to do whatever the fuck we want? Why do we think that good intentions mean good results?
For me, it’s that I’ve been taught that character is everything. Who you are is more important than what you do – and in some regards I believe this is true – like if you’re a really generous, kind, hard working individual who works at a grocery store. But good people do shitty things, and shitty people do good things. That’s the way of the world, and we’re all allowed to make mistakes as well as make good choices. The good deeds of the world aren’t limited to the saints.
But there seems to be this idea that the intention of an action dictates whether it is good or bad. This idea dismisses a huge part of the story, which is how this action impacts the world, and more specifically, the people in it.
Obviously, not every choice will have all around positive outcomes. Sometimes, we have to make the decision that is best for us personally, even if there is rebound that may affect others. There is however a difference between looking out for what’s in your own best interest, and doing what you want.
The world would be a fucking mess if we all did what we wanted without thinking of the repercussions of our actions. And a lot of people think that even if we are doing the things we want with good intentions, it’s the same thing as doing the **right** thing. Albeit, the **right** thing is often a lot less black and white, and a hell of a lot more murky than we would like to admit, but there are some things we can do to try and make sure that what we feel and what we do are on the same page.
First off, the golden rule of everything when it comes to other people, LISTEN. Oh my god, please just listen. And don’t listen with your eyes closed or your intention filter in your ears – put yourself in this persons shoes, try to understand how they are feeling and why, how you would be feeling if you were in the same position (regardless of if you understand why because THAT DOESN’T CHANGE THAT MAYBE IT HURTS YOUR FEELINGS)
Reflect on why you are choosing a certain path. If your partner says it makes them uncomfortable to sort out some issues of “what’s whos” with your ex over (another) lunch, then why is an alternative – like a chat on the phone, or an e-mail – off your list of acceptable options? Is it hurting you more to not go to lunch than it’s hurting your partner to go?
Have a conversation. Talk it out. State your side; maybe there’s something that the other person doesn’t understand. Maybe you will each find common ground. Maybe something they are worried about will be resolved. Maybe something you are worried about will be resolved.
Stay open. It is rare that there is only one path to take in a situation. Be open to other options and points of view. Is there a way you can resolve this that won’t hurt you, or another person? Have you really thought clearly about why you are going to do what you do? Are you making emotional decisions; based on who’s and what emotions?
Look, at the end of the day, what you do will always be more relevant than why you did it. Even if you have the purest of heart, that doesn’t determine how your actions are going to make another person feel (and if there’s any lesson I learned from all that bullying in elementary school, it’s that the way you make someone feel sticks around a lot longer than why). There are so many ways to put yourself first, while also being able to heed the feels of those around you as well.
And no one is perfect. If it comes down to it, apologize. Or accept an apology. Remember that mistakes are lessons learned, but the same mistake twice is on it’s way to becoming a habit.
Written by Forest Greenwell