“The road to Hell is paved…
…with good intentions.”
This saying is a wise one to remember when dealing with the aftermath that comes following infidelity discovery. It applies both to the actual cheater and to those who profess they are only giving “care.”
“I never intended to hurt you.” – Cheater
REALITY: You’re cheating still caused grave harm to me regardless of intentions.
“We only have your best interests in mind. Our intentions are good. That is why we insist you reconcile.” -Elders
REALITY: Forcing “care” on another person is called controlling them. It is not care. Further, a faithful spouse is free to divorce without shame even after “only” one instance of adultery according to Jesus (see Mt 5:32 and Mt 19:9).
We cannot judge intentions. All we have are words and actions. Generally, I recommend looking at actions over words as they are more reliable indicators of what people truly believe.
“Sorry is as sorry does”
…is another good saying to remember along the lines of verifying the actions are behind the words.
Fellow Christian: “I never intended ____ .”
My response: “Great. Glad you did not set out to harm me, but you still hurt me. Now, what do you intend to do now to make it better?”
I think the whole intentions talk is especially rampant among Christians. We are supposed to overlook real damage because the person “never intended” to harm us–as he or she reports. That works to a point.
Assuming the person is telling the truth about their intentions–remember: we cannot judge intentions as we cannot see into the hearts of others–it is good to hear what was done was not the result of a calculated attempt to hurt us. That said, it still was harmful.
The harm needs addressing.
Talking intentions does not address the harm done. It does not make what was wrong, right.
Too often, I hear the intention-speak employed as a way to rug-sweep. It is as if the person speaking thinks that if he/she had good intentions then everything is fine and the matter is closed.
The hurt is still there, and therefore, the matter is far from closed for the person wronged–intentionally or not.
One can have the best of intentions and still do horrific things. That’s the idea of the opening proverb.
Dodging responsibility for one’s actions by employing intention-speak does not help bring healing either to the person you wronged or to your relationship with him/her.
It takes much more than that.
If one actually cares about one’s relationship with the person harmed, it is best to make their pain primary and take responsibility for one’s actions.*
It is past time Christians stopped “paving” that road….
*A good place to start is with an apology that recognizes you actually harmed the other person without making any excuses (like “… but I didn’t intend to ___.”) “Sorry that I hurt you. Is there something I can do to help you feel better?”