Yesterday my friend Huib wrote and said that, as I was writing everyday, whether I would write about intentions. It’s a topic I find pretty interesting, so of course I agreed.
Fittingly, that night, though I had the intention, I didn’t bring myself to writing. I was tired, it was late and what does it matter anyways, I’d write early this morning and again this night. And anyways, I did have the best intention to write everyday, but it just didn’t work that night.
This morning there were lots of things on my plate and finally I stopped that nagging voice saying “but you promised” and decided that I’d just skip yesterday’s blog.
Then I realized that I was going to write about intentions and laughed about myself.
Backflash. Halfway into my year at Knowmads, we visit the Initiative Forum at YIP (yip.se), a yearly conference, bringing hundreds of inspired young people to a beautiful anthroposophic center in Sweden to share and to listen to changemakers and thought leaders on change from around the world.
This time, we had the honour to listen to (among others) Deborah Frieze, who, together with Margaret Wheatley, co-authored a book called “Walk Out, Walk On”, which I never got to read fully but the few pages of it that I have read were very inspiring. (I just found the lecture here, or at least I believe it is the one. can’t listen to it right now as someone is trying to sleep in the same room.)
Anyways – so Deborah was talking about her experiences and one sentence she said stuck with me (and others): “To hell with good intentions”
Really resonated with me back then. How often had I been told that people were doing something to me with the best intentions. Teachers supposedly had good intentions. Adults telling a kid how to behave supposedly had good intentions. People trying to influence my opinion or decisions supposedly have good intentions. Highly ‘spiritual’ people often believe to have very good intentions when they lecture about life. (Here is another great talk on that kind of intentions)
I was mad as hell about these kinds of intentions and allergic to them too. I could smell a mile off if someone was going to give me some well-intended words.
Good intentions, I think, are for you, or me, the person who has them. They are not for the person who you have good intentions for or for the thing you have good intentions for.
I have the need of saying something that’s important for me. So I’ll make it a well-intended story for you.
I have the need to defend my world-view. So I’ll give you some well-intended advice as to how you should go about things.
I feel afraid and need safety. So I’ll put my dog/horse/kid (yes, that exists!) on a leash and cut all freedom. For ‘their’ safety.
I feel things are getting out of control. So I’ll beat up my kid/horse/dog, for their best! – Luckily there’s not so much of that anymore, at least not in public space, or not around me.
But the same with my good intentions for writing. I have good intentions and that helps me if I don’t write. I really do want to write. So if I don’t write, I won’t hurt myself telling myself I’ve been lazy or damaging my self-image otherwise. Because I WANTED to write, but well, life didn’t let me.
This is a smooth way of not getting anything done, and worse, damaging my (in this case self-)credibility and esteem for myself.
And, of course, it’s a story I tell myself. The world didn’t let me. No, I didn’t do it, and end of story. No because, no fault, no shame, it’s just that.
That seems like lots of thinking about a blog written or not, but how many times do I do this in my daily life, have an intention to do something and not do it, but console myself with my good intention? Well, to hell with it!
One last thing about intentions.
Words with ‘good’ intention, but without attention.
I find myself in conversation with my girlfriend saying things with the intention to help. It’s an honest intention, I do want to. But I’m afraid that intention just doesn’t help.
Imagine the situation; Someone’s mother has died very recently and this person is deeply sad and in mourning. Someone else meets the sad person and feels deeply uncomfortable and doesn’t know what to do. For him, it seems like the best thing would be if everything was as normal. So he tells her (to stick with my cliché’d thinking): Well well, don’t worry about it, everything will be fine.
Now, this might help her, because maybe she is feeling afraid and is hoping for these words. More likely though, she will feel this to be what it is, a cheap exit from entering into real connection and real compassion. And she is likely to feel rather wounded than helped by those words.
They were spoken with the intention to help, but with no attention to her situation, and without willingness to step into real connection, ask how she feels, what she needs, what would help her.
I do this more often than I’d like to.
I learned from my friend Manu that integrity is doing what you say you’ll do. So either you do what you said you would or you don’t say that you will. But don’t take the cheap exit of “Well, I really wanted to, but then couldn’t”
I think, we (at least I) can practice saying less often that we’ll do something. And doing more often what we said we would.
And whenever I find myself with a good intention, making sure that I really and deeply fulfill this intention, having investigated and explored what I really intend there.
Intention with attention.