“Understanding Intention” Club

When my teenager snaps back at me, I know it wasn’t his intention to slap me with his words, so I forgive him.

When my husband is late time and time again or when he walks away without telling me where he’s going even though I’ve asked him to communicate for 11 years, I know it wasn’t his intention to say, “Fuck you” with his actions, so I forgive him.

When my daughter begins whining the minute she doesn’t get what she wants even though I’ve doted on her all day, I know it’s not her intention to send me to the bottle, so I forgive her.

When my mother took a drink, or ten, and said things she would never remember and yet I would never forget, I understand it was not her intention to hurt my feelings, so I forgave her.

When my father decided it wasn’t my business to tell me he got married, because “how does it affect me anyway?” and yet it still felt when I had discovered this secret, I burst the invisible bubble of happiness to a new life to which I wasn’t invited. But this was not his intention, so I forgave him.

Forgiveness is one of the most mature behaviors a person can exhibit. But beyond that, to look at intention even beyond action, is being truly mature, maybe a true adult? While scrutinizing intention, you have to analyze whether the actions which caused you annoyance, anger, sadness were intended to make you feel that way deliberately. It’s the real life version of manslaughter versus first-degree murder. Without premeditated intent, even the court system is more lenient.

The truth is I have no choice but to forgive; these are my people. But somehow by forgiving, I am also teaching them they can do it again. My son has hormones, my husband has “this is who I was when you married me” syndrome, my daughter is five, and my parents were immigrants. It seems life is about forgiving in order to move on only to restart the cycle again.

But I am a woman with active hormones and consequent emotions. As often as I’d like to stop, assess intention, and respond logically, the formula doesn’t always compute flawlessly. Occasionally I scream, rage and overreact. (Or is this “overreaction” simply real life reaction and I should embrace my entitlement to it.)

So when I don’t call you back for a few days (or weeks) or if I write some passive aggressive essay on my blog about you or when I scream, “Fuck You” in the middle of Costco, because you have disappeared for 15 minutes for the ten-thousandth time in our relationship, please forgive me, it is not my intention to make you feel like shit in this moment. Or else, maybe it is.

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