Actions vs. Intentions

Maybe it’s just me, but I seem to find that every time I wander on to social media, there is some sort of witch hunt going on. Normally someone will have said something, which others will have taken as offensive or rude, and so have voiced their unfiltered, and likely even more offensive thoughts in the form of a reply, and before you know it a small war has started.

Sometimes I see these types of conflicts, and I have to agree. The initial comment was rude, offensive, and clearly said with bad intentions.

Yet the majority of times, I just feel sorry for whoever has said something without thinking, and is now having to deal with a torrent of abuse from every direction.

Sure, what they have said/done may not be ideal, but you have to question – did they ever actually mean to hurt anyone?

Obviously sometimes the answer will be yes – I’m not trying to deny that people with cruel intentions and bad motives do exist. However, call me optimistic, but I tend to hope that normally these mean comments were no more than a lack of misunderstanding on one part. I think the key to these situations, is not particularly to look at what the person has done, though obviously important, but more to look at the intent behind what was said/done.

And, perhaps because of this, I firmly believe that the way to tackle a response to a comment you personally find offensive, or believe could be seen as offensive to others, is to educate rather than attack. It may just be that the publisher of the initial comment has simply never been made aware of the meanings behind their words.

I find it easy to forget that I am incredibly lucky to be brought up surrounded by a group of down-to-earth, sensible, and sensitive people, who as far as I am aware, have raised me with fairly good morals. I’m definitely not perfect, and I wonder if part of the reason I feel inclined to write this post is out of fear of one day being chased down for something I’ve said being taken out of context or misunderstood from what I actually meant, however on the whole I feel pretty confident that my moral compass is set fairly straight.

Not everyone is this lucky. Not everyone has been brought up to be taught what is politically or morally correct, and what isn’t. And to be virtually abused and assaulted for a tweet or a caption by which you never meant any harm could be soul-destroying.

What you’ve been brought up to know as wrong, others may have been brought up to know as perfectly fine, or the situation may have never been brought up at all with them, making it difficult to know how the situation should be handled.

Before you say or post something, maybe it is worth taking a few minutes just to think about what are your intentions with your actions. I spoke a bit more about this in my post about gossiping. But as well as considering our own intentions, it can be helpful to consider other people’s intentions when seeing something you do not agree with. Did they mean to offend, or be hurtful? If so, then maybe they are not the kind of person you should be following or spending time with. But maybe they just wanted to help, or share their opinion on a subject. Maybe they’d never been told that what they are doing is wrong. 

In fact, the friendships and relationships I value the most are ones where we can hold each other accountable. The ones where they can approach me and suggest that what I said was wrong, or that I should have handled a situation differently. It may be difficult to hear at the time, but I am definitely a better person because of it.

I think it would be so much more beneficial, for everyone’s emotional well-being, and growth in character, to let people know why what they have said may be seen as not OK in a polite and respectful manner. Educate, don’t attack. Maybe send them a private message, rather than publicly shaming them, or a polite reply just to make them aware, in order that they may grow and learn without feeling attacked and hurt.

Also, if there have been several other comments covering all bases you personally would have covered, it may be wise to question whether your opinion is really needed? Is it going to add to their knowledge and growth, or is it just going to feel more like a bombardment? If everything you wanted to say has already been added, then maybe allow that to satisfy your desires.

We, as humans, make mistakes all the time. We are an imperfect species, constantly messing up in order to learn and evolve. However, the presence of social media means our mistakes can be seen by hundreds rather than just a few. So, I suggest we try to make social media a nicer place for all by aiming looking at the intentions behind the action, rather than just the action itself.

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