It is true intentions don’t change a particular outcome. For instance, harmful actions still cause harm regardless of whether we intended to do so or not. But our intentions still matter in shaping the story we tell and our relationship with each other.
As an extreme example, it doesn’t matter if a loved one was killed accidentally or maliciously. We still have to grieve the loss of a loved one irrespective of the intent behind the actions that led to their death.
At the same time, knowing the heart behind a person’s actions informs our healing journey. And it’s much easier to forgive and pursue reconciliation when we know the other person was not motivated by ill-will or evil intentions.
And, of course, this plays out in less extreme ways throughout our daily life.
For example, it remains disappointing whenever our wife declines our sexual initiation. But it makes a difference knowing she’s simply not in the mood versus rejecting us as a lover. Knowing the heart behind her decision helps us to make an accurate interpretation and mature response moving forward.
Likewise, if a friend, colleague, or neighbor says something offensive, it matters if this was intentional or not. While their words might still sting, it’s easier to maintain relational unity when we know their heart toward us is still good.
To be sure, a cost must be paid regardless of a person’s intentions. But this outcome is not the only thing that matters, particularly in navigating the complexities of our relationships.
We deny the depth and complexity of the human soul when we divorce our actions and behaviors from our deeper heart attitudes.
In the end, intentions matter even when the outcome doesn’t change because we’re seeking to connect with each other’s heart. Without denying the cost, let your responses be shaped by the heart of the other more so than their mere actions.