Thursday, May 15, 2014

Biweekly Bits #8: Intentions vs Behavior

After writing 26 bits, I realized that there is so much I could elaborate on with each of my bits. So I decided to turn them into a biweekly (i.e. fortnightly) series, for the next year.
"We judge ourselves by our intentions and others by their behavior." -Stephen R. Covey. I don't think I need to add anything to this.
 This quote by Stephen Covey is a great self-check quote. It reminds us of two things:
1. Things are not always perceived the way we intend them.
2. Things are not always intended the way we perceive them.

Every time I read this one, it makes me stop and think about how my behavior may be perceived, regardless of my intention, and also think that because I don't always know the intent of another person, it may be unfair to pass judgement on their behavior.

This is not to say that everyone gets a free pass to do anything, because they didn't mean this or they did mean that, but rather that in some situations, it is worthwhile to try to put on the shoes of another to understand their perspective. Too often we make snap judgements based on what people do, never giving them a chance to explain themselves and or rectify their behavior. Of course, some behavior is inexcusable, regardless of intent, but oftentimes, we get offended by the actions of others based on what we think they meant by it, and not so much by what they actually have done. It's hard to forgive others when you hold onto your previous judgement of what they have done.

On the other hand, this is cause for self-reflection. There have been times when I have had to apologize for something that I'd done because what I meant by it what not what was interpreted in the situation. Case in point:

I remember in an essay that I wrote when I was 11 or 12, I mentioned that my teacher (who was grading the assignment) was sarcastic. Now, if you've met me, you'd know that I'm very sarcastic, and thus when I wrote that about her, it was in admiration. Unfortunately, she didn't agree, and I ended up having to write her an apology. But I learned something important there: just because that was what I meant, it didn't mean that what I did didn't seem offensive. After all, she didn't know my thought process, she only knew my actions.

This intention vs behavior quote also reminds me of the necessity of spiritual discernment. As people, we get so caught up in outward manifestations: actions, appearances and the like, when God is really concerned about the heart. Part of my prayers for discernment have been for an understanding of the heart behind people, so that I can look beyond the actions. Very often, actions can only hint at the tumultuous nature of the heart. We bury and harbor so many things there: hurts and aches and pains and longings, but when it overflows into our actions, into our words, it is only relayed in part. That's why social workers and healthcare professionals are trained to look at signs, because there is often a disconnect between what we do, and what we think or how we feel.

So here's the challenge: pray for the eyes to understand the intentions. Sometimes they are exactly what you perceive them to be. But sometimes, we'd be surprised to understand the motivation of others that drives their actions.

Be blessed and shine with different eyes.


  1. Look at people through God's eyes. Listen with God's heart.
    My personal summation.: I ask HIM to reveal. I ask HIM to use me as HIS instrument.
    This reduces my striving. He does the changing of us from glory to glory.


A person finds joy in giving an apt reply—
and how good is a timely word! -Prov 15:23