Posted by: sulya | 22 November 2009


Don’t mean much.

Seriously, I have had this thought rolling around for a couple years now and the more I think about and live with it the more I conclude that intentions mean virtually nothing.

This is a big kind of statement.  I know that.  But I really have been toying with it for quite a while and I’m growing more and more sure that I’m on to something here.

Even in the most extreme cases – people who are later described as sadistic despots for example – often genuinely believe that ridding the world of…

_insert group defined by religion, gender, race, age, sexual orientation etc. here_

… will make the world a better, safer, more beautiful place.

They have, in their minds, the best possible intentions.

It is those who do not share their beliefs who decide that they are cruel/mad/insane/psychotic and dangerous.  And history.  History decides.  A history told by whomever was left standing and has the loudest voice, the longest reach, their own best intentions…

One can argue, in fact, that even the cruelest intentions don’t mean anything if they are not acted upon.  One must act on hate or speak hate or incite hate in others for other people to truly know that you are hateful.  Hate in one’s heart, in one’s mind… It mostly hurts the bearer.

And, it is equally true that the best of intentions are also meaningless if one never lives out their goodness, if one never acts generously or kindly.  No matter how much love one has to give, if one does not give it then it is impossible for anyone else to know that you are loving.  I have also begun to wonder if perhaps keeping love inside oneself might not be far more detrimental to one’s well-being than harbouring hate…

I should make clear, too, that I am not in any way trying to dive into moral relativism here – I do personally believe that there are a set of people who’s inner workings are fundamentally admirable and others whose insides are more rancid than two pounds of ground beef in a hot summer sun.  There is a spectrum of right and wrong in this crazy universe of ours.  It’s just that, trite though this may sound, it’s complicated.

And, really, I’m not even talking about the big intentions of those who would be King.

I’m talking about day to day.  If I’m to be honest, this idea grew mostly out of my pondering on that which we call “romantic love.”  It was only after I’d mulled on it in that context for a while that I started to realize that intentions barely matter in most relationships be they with friends, family – hell even our pets don’t care if we “meant to” feed them before we went on an all-night bender…

They just know they didn’t get fed.

It’s what we do that matters.  It’s what we don’t do.

The rest is just the story we tell ourselves to justify our own cowardice at not being able to admit that someone is failing us, that we are failing someone; that we or the people we love are doing the wrong things or not doing anywhere near enough of the right things.

It’s what we do that matters.

And, please bear in mind that though ‘saying things’ is valuable. Sharing one’s thoughts and feelings is, in fact, something one “does” – speech is nowhere near the final word on “action.”

This is hard for a writer to admit… That saying things – the effective, affecting, use of words – is not enough…  It’s meaningful.  It’s important.  It’s one of the most beautiful places to start because words are powerful in their own right.  They can be so motivating, so powerful that they incite the most incredible sorts of action but action exists without and beyond words and it always will.

Love is a word and a powerful one.  It’s an act of faith to let yourself feel it.  It’s an act of faith to offer it to another human being.

But even “I love you” is nothing without follow-through.

It’s what we do that matters.

It’s what we DO.

And if you can’t take my word for it, take Eliza Doolittle’s:


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