Good intentions

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.


4 thoughts on “Good intentions

  1. Huh, and I was wondering how your friend knew he wasn’t Christian (then I realized it was me!). To answer your question I just wish everyone a happy New Year unless I know for a fact what they celebrate.

    • Ha ha, I would have thought best friend at 16 years old pretty much narrowed it down to you!

      A New Years greeting seems like a good way around the issue, non denominational without the generic ‘happy holidays’ that prompts comments about the war on Christmas :).

  2. I love your posts! I have opinions about this topic myself, because it seems the ordinary small talk route in life really has assumptions which tend to reflect the experience of the initiator. And yes, good intentions do count to some measure. None of those throw away comments are malicious (perhaps the go to therapy comment is slightly not well-intentioned), but unfortunately, they end up being in that category of microaggressions, especially for women and non-Christians and people of color and those who have chosen not to have children (or those who did not have a choice.) I imagine that being a non-Christian around Christmas–Christmas music in every store, on every radio station, people saying Merry Christmas, and then Christians being pissed off when we say Happy Holidays. (Not to get off on a tangent, but my MIL was very upset that I sent a Happy Holidays card one year. Totally didn’t even notice. I just liked the color.)

    I do say Have a Blessed Day to others in my belief system, or on my own blog (I actually don’t remember if I have, but I can see myself doing that!). In that way, people are choosing to approach me about my spiritual beliefs, or I know we share them, and I can make that assumption that they are in alignment or will leave without offending me. But when I am just walking down the street, I say, Have the best day ever! or even Have a GOOD day. One thing that sticks in my craw is when people tell me to SMILE! Or to stop posting pictures of myself without a smile. 1. or A. Women have been told to smile for too long, to play nice, to ignore their emotions for the comfort of everyone around her–STOP TELLING ME TO SUCK IT UP! 2. or B. I portray my being this way–serious, contemplative, honest. 3. or C. My teeth are all jacked up and I’m not into them, so let me be discreet. Jeesh, this was a long comment. Love you and miss you, Squid.

    • Oh my goodness, so many thoughts.
      I learned the term microagression a few months back and loved it. I felt it gave a word to something I have often tried to describe. Then I forgot about it, so thanks for putting it back in my vocabulary! It is a terribly useful word in this type of conversation. I think sometimes they (microagressions) are thoughtless, and sometimes they are malicious. Like the therapy comment, I think that dude honestly thinks I am making the world a more negative place, while I think I am encouraging conversation and thereby encouraging understanding. Room for both thoughts in this world. Someday I am going to write a post about the importance of *how* we say things though.
      I have no problem with ‘have a blessed day’ in one’s own community, definitely not on a blog. I did just realize that the only people who have ever said it to me have been strangers, and I wonder if I would have the same negative reaction were it coming from a friend….hmmmm.
      Oh god, the being told to smile thing. That first gets my inner feminist riled up (in fairness, that happens a lot), and then just angers me on how presumptuous it is. I think my blog may have a theme of me being annoyed at people telling me how to think/feel. Betsy pointed out that it may just run in my family. But really, when you make an assumption you make an ass out of you and umption…
      Love and miss you too Ang!
      PS-I may disagree with your number three point about smiling, because you have an awesome smile (just sayin’).

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