Image courtesy of Michal Marcol/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Judging by Intentions

Dr. Paul O. (1995, There’s More to Quitting Drinking than Quitting Drinking, p. 58) describes remembering “a girl at an AA meeting saying why she couldn’t see why people thought she was an alcoholic until she realized they were judging her by her actions while she was judging herself by her intentions.”

Reading this made me stop and consider a few things. How often do I judge myself by my intentions rather than my actions?  Could my judgment be just as wrong if it were self-critical but still different from what others observe in my behavior?  It seems to me my self-judgment could err both on the positive and negative side of what others observe.

Judgment is based on our perception of reality, and, therefore, my self-judgment is, at times, based on a false assumption or perception, be it positive or negative. It makes me remember all the disagreements I have had with people when I’ve had to stand back and take a good, long look at the situation before I end up saying, “I’m sorry, that was not my intent.” Usually they don’t give a “you know what” about my intent—–what they are reacting to is their perception of what actually happened. Could there be just as many times when other perception-based attributes (self-esteem, self-worth, etc.) are totally out of touch with the reality observed by others?

So, now I realize I need to strive to aware of what idea, intent, or self-based attribute may be influencing my assessment of reality and of self. In addition, I need to be aware of the messages my behavior gives to others,  and I need to be able to understand that my assumptions may keep me from seeing myself and my behavior as others do.

What difference will having such an awareness make? Well, for starters, I imagine I will be less judgmental of others and of myself as I realize “invisible attributes” such as intent and bias play a part in shaping perception and how we relate with one another. It is also a strong reminder to be aggressively honest with myself or I will miss “the reality of my life.”

Perhaps the most important message of all is I need to let go of self-centeredness. I need to remember that when I judge others or worry about how others judge me, I often do it from a self-centered attitude of either superiority or inferiority. Based on advice from a meditative comment (reading for October 28 in the 1974 edition of Day by Day),  I need to let my Higher Power give my life meaning and significance rather than trying to do it myself because my “own meaning” is most often related to “ego, money, and pleasure.”

Questions to ponder:

  • What part do intent and other “invisible” self-attributes play in your life?
  • What role do you think our concept of “self” plays in how we relate to reality?
  •  What would happen if we left the “shaping of reality” up to God?

Enough “deep thinking” for one afternoon. I’m going to try to “shut down the synapses” for a while and let God handle things. God bless and keep you.