“I didn’t mean to hurt her, Beverley,” I lamented as I reflected upon my last conversation with my former wife.
“Bob,” replied Beverley, “it’s not our intentions that are important; it’s our actions.”
Intentions vs. Actions – I suppose I have been living an entire life of “intentions,” with little-to-no consideration of my actions. When I am in a self-centered frame of being, this is very easy to do. In sobriety, as I become more and more conscious of my behavior, as perhaps more of my ‘character defects’ are revealed to me, my actions become much more significant to me than my well meaning intentions!
For years I used intentions for a myriad of self-serving purposes. I found intentions handy to enhance my ego; I used them as coping mechanisms and I used them to control and manipulate others. To build my ego, I would continually proclaim I’m going to do this or I’ going to build that, etc. When the intention came to fruition, I took credit for executing a well thought out plan – and made sure everyone knew it. When I failed to meet a lofty objective, I frequently fell back upon my intention to cushion the fall. I became very adept at explaining why I was unable to accomplish my goal, or meet my obligation. There were many, many occasions where a broken car, adverse weather, or an unplanned TDY (business trip) gave me an excuse for not meeting a commitment my heart just wasn’t in int he first place. With my intention previously well stated, my integrity remained intact. Or so I thought. Today, in retrospect, I only kidded myself…
I also used intentions as a coping mechanism to excuse irresponsible behavior. Well, I intended to leave the O Club after only 1 beer – but I ran into a long-lost friend! (Sometimes it took considerable effort through out the night to find this ‘long lost friend!’) When subsequently confronted about my behavior, a practiced heart-felt apology, sprinkled lightly with ‘severe remorse,’ and the issue was dropped. At least in my mind. (Typical alcoholic thinking.) I never considered the distress or inconvenience I may have caused others. After all, I intended to leave earlier… Over the years I refined this coping mechanism to where even I could not recognize the hollowness of it anymore. Today I can look back and see the trail of disappointment and shattered dreams I left with my selfish intentions. And it is at this juncture that I begin to feel actual remorse, and know I have amends to make…
I also discovered how well I could use intention as a controlling mechanism – as a manipulating mechanism. When I committed to an intention, in actuality I gave myself time to “weasel” out of it. I didn’t have either the courage, or the confidence to say “no” when I was drinking. You might not love me if I said “no.” So, I I would commit, then find a way to get out if it… and I could always fall back on my intention!’
For as much as I used intentions to serve my will, I absolutely detested it when the intentions of others were not met! How could he or she let me down like that? A very interesting process here: When you stated an intention, I created an expectation. And if this expectation wasn’t met, It led to a resentment. That in turn, gave me an excuse to drink… Insidious.
Intentions are not bad in and of themselves; it’s how I choose to use them that are important. And here is where “honesty” creeps into the equation. For me today, “honesty” is the filter between intention and action. If my intentions are honest and sincere, my actions, right or wrong, will be okay. Maybe here is where I become more of a human and less of a good…
“It is not out intentions that are important Bob, it’s our actions that count.” Beverley made this simple comment to me over a year ago. I have chewed on, thought about it, discussed it and now have written about it. It certainly has helped me with my relationships. Today before I state an intention I take a look at my motivation for the intention. That, in turn, gives me a little more insight into the consequences of any actions that I might take. I can not always be “right” with my actions, but at least today I have a head start toward doing the “next right thing.”