I got my first negative comment the other day! It was exciting for me. Partially because someone other than family and a few friends actually read my blog, and partly because it seems like a rite of passage in this crazy internet place. That is not the point though, the point is that it got me thinking again about a common theme in my head: good intentions vs negative effects. Are the intentions more important, or the effect? Is that even really a valid question? I think it is. Though it is often a helluva balance.
Good intentions, terrible outcome:
Sometimes it is an easy answer. For example, if in good intentions I said to a black woman “you are pretty for a colored girl” would that be appropriate because I meant well? No, no it would not be. I would need to seriously rethink where I was coming from and the effect my words have were I to say that.
My post about people telling me to have a blessed day is on the questionable side for me. Obviously the dude meant well, obviously I am fussed by it. I think I may be over fussed. I also think that anyone saying that phrase is slightly presumptuous and self absorbed. Less easy answer there, but I err on the side of my being justified in my fussiness. Personal bias, I am allowed.
Probably the most commonly argued example of this comes up a lot over the holidays. What do you say for your season’s greetings? (That is a heartfelt question). Is the standard to wish people what you would want? I distinctly remember (when I was 16, naive, and spazzy) going to the 7-11 with my best friend. On our way out I cheerily said ‘Merry Christmas’ and my friend laughed at me. Seeing my confusion she explained that the guy was clearly not Christian. It made me think about how I would feel if people were constantly saying something to me that I could not relate to and was a definite epiphany on my self centeredness (thanks Nikki for the insight!). Most things I say now I try and think about how I would take it were I someone else, and let that guide me.
Dealing with people in this world is really about empathy for me. I do not always succeed, but I think the effort makes me better than I would be otherwise. In the end I suppose good intentions are a good thing, but having enough empathy to recognize what has a negative impact on others and change behavior because if it is awesome.
As always I love hearing other’s thinking, especially if it opens me to ideas and perspectives I have not considered. Though I have already been informed of my need for therapy…
This is a bonus video about empathy. I love it. I would embed it, but that apparently costs money and I am cheap and poor.