I'm sure we've all heard, or said, or thought the words, "I didn't mean to." Some variations: "That wasn't what I meant," or "I didn't intend to," or "I didn't mean it that way," or "That wasn't my intention."
I know I have.
This reaction is a reflexive response meant to combat the guilt we feel for doing harm to another person because no one wants to feel like the villain.
So imagine my discomfort (indeed, the discomfort of many) when I first heard the phrase, "Intent isn't magick," and was thrust into a world where naming my intent didn't offer solace to the person I'd hurt. Where I learned that naming my intent often did more harm.
But then, opportunities for growth are rarely comfortable.
I've had time to think about intent, and I began to wonder what use it really had. If it could offer nothing to the people we hurt, what was the purpose of having intent?
At it's most simple, intent is just a contract we make with ourselves. It is a promise that, so long as we want something, we'll do what we can to bring that something into our lives.
Through this contract, our intent should drive our actions. Holding ourselves accountable for our side of the contract requires that we do things that would lead us toward attaining the thing we desire. Likewise, it requires us to avoid doing those things that lead us away from, or prevent us, from attaining our goal.
Sometimes the difference between the two isn't as clear as we'd like it to be. That's where learning and growth come into play. For just about every undertaking that exists, there is someone who can help guide us when we hit a snag. The difficult part is accepting the difficult teachings, the ones that require us to change.
And that brings me to the hardest lesson I've learned about intent.
Refusing to change a counterproductive habit means we didn't intend what we claim. For example, if someone says they want a deeper relationship with us, yet he or she refuses to respect our boundaries or shames us for having them, that someone didn't really want a relationship with us. They wanted to be able to boast having a connection with us without putting in the work. Or if we say we wish to be an ally to a marginalized group, yet we cling to an oppressive slur because it's "just a word" or we're so used to using it that changing our language would be "hard," we didn't really want to be an ally. We wanted to claim the label without putting forth any effort.
That, really, is the truth behind intent.
It's meaningless without effort.
A contract is meaningless without both parties being invested in keeping their parts of the agreement.
When it comes to intent, the only party invested is ourselves.