The Impact of Intention
Well, I wrote up all my stuff for 2020 yesterday and laid it all out on my kitchen table. Very helpful for my year in review. Then I boxed it all up and put a wrap on 2020...even though there are a few days left. I decided that I would use these days, five days to set about coming up with intentions for 2021. Really thinking about what I want to do, who I want to be, how I want to be in this world.
I attended a retreat last Sunday that made the distinction between intention and impact. I never really thought about the difference until then...
Intention - is internal. It is my motives and ideas about why I am doing something I am doing. I have complete control over my intentions.
Impact - is how my intentional acts hit others. And this I have little to no control over.
It was a helpful distinction for me. I think I have always had the intention to have a particular impact. But I do not get to decide whether or not I even impact my life in the manner I intend. So many other variables at play that I cannot know, control or even corral.
Perhaps that is why my life has felt so hard lately. I have been confusing these two. Intention and impact. One is mine the other so not mine.
In any regard, I see the difference now and believe this could be beneficial to all.
I think when I am setting intentions I should consider the impact on myself and others. But I should also acknowledge that in the divine world, intention matters more because impact is such a crazy crap shoot.
What I intend and what you experience are two things that I can never, ever rectify because I lack the power to have what I want and intend, mean the same thing to you.
I can intend to help you, but you might receive my offer to help as a statement that I don’t think you are capable.
I can intend to be silent and give you space, when you might receive my silence as evidence that I don’t care.
I might leave you be because I see how much my presence in your life hurts you, but you might experience that as me abandoning you.
My intent does not always, in fact, might not ever be your impact.
And it works on me too. I intend to write this book that I have been working on for the past 23 years. The impact of this writing has been varied and continues to have differing impacts on my life. I still have the intention to write it, but how it impacts me changes over time...
Intention never assures impact. And impact does not always belie right intention. The growth and change for me comes in recognizing that there is always this dance between the two. Neither of which I can control and leash and bend to my will. My intentions sometimes suck, and my impact is still ok. And sometimes my intentions are so pure, but my impact is harmful.
I think that I just need to be willing to see that they are not the same and my ability to effectuate impact lies outside of my sphere of influence because it is about how you experience me. I think this distinction is super important for addressing race relations. I can have the best of intentions, but my impact on others will always come with their own backstory that I can never fully know and likely never understand. I have not grown up black. I have not lived all of my days with a skin color other than white. There is no way that my intentions are not affected by my whiteness. There is no way that the impact of my intentions is not affected by their blackness. Perhaps, my acknowledgment that there exists this great divide is what is needed for healing to occur. Within our country, within our social fabric, within ourselves.
Intention is all about me. Impact is all about others. This is immutable and cannot be changed. Perhaps though we can start the dialog from a place of mutual respect that while my intentions may be good they may have a negative impact. And that the negative impact has less to do with my intentions and more to do with the lifelong experience of others. And in order to hear what others tell me, I have to be willing to see that my intentions don't grant me a pass to over their lifelong experience.
And I can move forward in my life, being more mindful of how, regardless of how evolved I think I am, that my intentions are about me. The impact I think I create with them is also about me. And that I do not ever have a prayer of understanding much about others from this very limited perspective. I can only maybe begin to experience others when I allow them to tell me about the impact, and I listen without defense, my own backstory, or a list of reasons why it couldn’t possibly be that way...
I may not intend a particular impact, but just because I didn't intend it, doesn't mean that I don't need to listen to how my perfect intention impacted you negatively. It doesn't make either of us wrong or right, it makes us both human. And my willingness to listen to you, about how what I did or said, affected you, even though I intended something else entirely, is the beginning of true communication. I can hear that intention does not equal impact. And let the conversation begin right there...