the enigma of intent…

Words are funny things aren’t they? They can envelope others in love and stay tucked in hearts for a lifetime or cut like a sword and leave behind wounds and anger that may never heal. Depending on the recipient, the same words can do either.

I recently came upon a personal revelation about words and their intent. I was in a small group discussion and the question was asked, what kind of law/rule feels caring verses controlling? There were many examples cited by our group, but one such example illuminated the light bulb in my head. I thought back to my parenting days of a rule that we had in place in our family….please call when you get there. Although it sounded like a request, it really wasn’t negotiable, because our sons knew that if they didn’t, we would come looking for them. Now, let’s drill down a bit and discover the motivation behind that rule. As parents, we viewed it from a caring standpoint. We wanted to know that our kids were safely where they set out to go. If they needed help, we wanted to be able to respond as quickly as possible. I know that you, just as I, have heard horror stories of parents getting unimaginable news about their children when they thought they were somewhere else.  A mother’s mind can play strange tricks on a mother’s heart when her children are out of the nest. This rule in no way called into the question their intelligence nor the trust we placed in them to do the right thing. It was merely because we loved them so deeply and just wanted to know that they were safe. Therefore, this rule was set in place from the standpoint of a caring heart. It was not meant to control. We also thought that we explained our reasons carefully to insure their understanding.

Now, this is the Ah-Ha moment. In phrasing the question that way with the opposing perspectives, I realized that one son saw this rule for what it was….our caring hearts. The other son viewed this rule as our attempts to control him. It had never occurred to me that they would interpret the same rule in such different ways, given our intent. This spawned thoughts of other words that sprang from caring intent which invoked responses that I did not understand.  One might assume that relationship would trump the negative slide from caring to control, but not so given the unique individuals that we are.  It now made sense to me, as if puzzle pieces were snapping rapidly into place. Control was the lens being superimposed over the motivation of care. We were literally speaking different languages.  Who else in my world might also have misconstrued my efforts?  I was both elated to make this discovery to begin the process of understanding, and yet equally dismayed to know what to do with this knowledge.  How does one erase and rectify the accumulated damage of miscommunication? Armed with this realization, how does one venture forth in authenticity without feeling that communication is a minefield of eggshells? Am I forever doomed to over-analyze my words?  How should I form my words from a caring intent and convey them in such a way that the message is received accurately.   The answer will have application in every aspect of human interaction.

So…..what is the answer?


“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” ~ Psalm 19:14

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2 Responses to the enigma of intent…

  1. I’m not sure there is any one answer, but in the future, before we say anything from a caring perspective, we might do well to pray Psalm 19:14 in our hearts. Such a thoughtful post, Pam!


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