Yesterday I wrote about my Lenten Intentions. A few hours after my post was published, a couple of friends posted to their own Twitter and Facebook accounts what they may think of as jokes about what they’re “giving up” for Lent. Some were silly like, “I’m giving up Lent for Lent.” Some were bordering on offensive like, “I’m giving up hookers and blow.” Or, “I’m giving up hope.” Or, “I’m giving up being Politically Correct.”
Maybe these were an indirect response to my post, and similar posts by others who are genuinely observing Lent and wanted to share their thoughts. Or maybe they were just attempting to be clever. I can’t really know without asking. But either way, their comments were disrespectful and hurtful. Some I can blame on ignorance, but others seemed designed to be offensive.
It makes me wonder if it really matters? I was pondering this on my bike commute this morning. It is similar to my saying regarding dangerous drivers. Some are idiots who don’t actually mean to hurt me, and some are jerks who do. The only difference between the two is a matter of intention. Once they hit me, I’ll still be hurt, and it won’t make me feel any better to know it was a matter of carelessness.
Being an idiot implies a certain level of thoughtlessness. Being thoughtless isn’t the same as being willfully hurtful, but the outcome is the same. Someone gets hurt because of someone else’s actions. Just as I don’t like to use the term “accident” because it implies that it was unavoidable and no one was at fault, it is the same when thinking about interactions not involving 2000 pound vehicles.
Everything we say and do impacts the people around us. Shouldn’t we attempt to be mindful in all of our actions? Shouldn’t we attempt to bring positive intention to all of our interactions? Isn’t that what most major religions teach at their core? “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” It’s an impossible goal. No human can ever be perfectly kind and thoughtful. And people who are easily offended may well still feel hurt. But if the positive intention is there for all to see, it is much less likely.
Isn’t that a worthy goal?