WHAT'S THE POSITIVE INTENTION?
Posted By: David Trotter
Over the years, I have noticed that discussions of grace-giving and second chances are incredibly warm and fuzzy until I’m the one who has experienced the unmet expectations and pain in a relationship. All of a sudden, the well-intentioned rhetoric for the benefit of others becomes an opportunity for me to flex my grace muscles on behalf of the one who hurt me.
If I’m honest, this is something I’m confronted with on a daily basis. C’mon… seriously…who doesn’t experience some sort of disappointment over the course of 24 hours? I know I do.
In many cases, I can quickly identify with the behavior of the other person… acknowledging that I can behave in a similar manner. In the same way I have been forgiven by God and want to be forgiven by others, I have the opportunity to extend grace toward the person who hurt me.
On other occasions, I can find it difficult to get beyond the painful experience. I start asking questions like, “How could someone ever think that this was okay? Who in their right mind would ever ________________?” Whether audibly spoken or simply muttered in my own head, the questions are generally accusatory and condemning and full of outright judgment.
You’ve asked those kinds of questions, right? Okay…good…I didn’t think I was alone.
Awhile back, I found myself ranting about the leadership style of my largest marketing client. I was going on and on about the inadequacy of her decision-making process and how I was frustrated by the whole experience. In the midst of it all, a wise friend asked me, “Do you think they might have a positive intention?”
“Huh? There’s nothing positive about what this lady is doing!” I thought to myself.
“Yeah, I actually have this crazy belief that every person has a positive intention behind almost all of their actions…even the most hurtful ones.”
I wasn’t so sure about this whole idea, but I was willing try it on.
Could it be that the woman who cut in front of me at the grocery store that afternoon was hurrying home to take care of her sick kids? (A positive intention.)
Perhaps my client is making constant changes because she wants the very best for her company. (A positive intention.)
Maybe my friend who just had an affair was seeking an intimate, passionate relationship even though he was seeking it from an unhealthy source. (A positive intention.)
In a weird way, every situation I ‘tried on’ had a positive intention at its core even if there was a self-centeredness to the decision. Although causing disappointment or pain to someone else may be a by-product of the person’s decision, I began to see that they actually were seeking something positive for their own life or the lives of another.
Each time I experience an unmet expectation, what would happen if I starting asking the question, “What’s the positive intention?” I wonder if I would be able to identify what the other person was intending to experience for their own benefit or the benefit of another.
If I actually began to see their positive intention, I wonder if that would enable me to have more compassion for them and whatever they’re experiencing in life. I wonder if I would be more prone to give them grace.