The other day, a friend of mine was wrestling with a common relationship issue, trying to figure out whether someone’s action was motivated by good intention or woeful disregard. I say common, because I suspect we have all experienced this kind of uncertainty at one time or another: Someone we know does or says something that leaves us feeling hurt, bewildered, or perplexed. The most direct course of action would be to ask. But that only works if we’re willing to believe the answer.
Often, if we’re feeling this confused about someone’s action, it’s because they’re relevant enough to matter but not familiar enough to trust. Other times, even those dearest to our hearts can baffle us.
The problem might be perception. We look at life through our own experiential filters, which affect everything we see, hear, and feel. But a perspective that is so clear to us—and perhaps even validated by others—might not be shared by the person whose action is baffling us. And that’s a problem. How can we guess their intentions correctly when we have no common base of understanding?
As I observed my friend’s struggle—which in this case, came down to a choice of whether the person’s action reflected a deep caring or hurtful indifference—I offered a third choice: What if it was neither?
Perplexing actions rarely mean as much as we secretly hope or as little as we desperately fear.
Questioning motives can save us from trouble down the line. I certainly would not counsel against it. But habitual second guessing, especially when it swings wildly one from extreme to the other, can drive us nuts!
Extremes tend to be reflections of what is going on inside of us rather than what’s going on inside the other person.
I think the difference has to do with the obsessiveness of worry. When our imagination takes over, our perception narrows in toward self. We become focused on how we’re feeling, what we’re thinking, the validity of our position, the nature of our fear. We think of all sorts of things, and all of them are oriented to us.
But what if the thing in question has nothing to do with us? Sometimes, even actions directed and involving us are not motivated by interest in us. Strange but true.
It’s hard to find clarity about someone’s actions when we’re consumed by our own re-actions.
I hope I remember this the next time I feel my own thoughts spinning out of control or catch my imagination fabricating unreasonable hopes and equally unreasonable fears.
It doesn’t happen often. Mindfulness and meditation usually keeps my mind calm enough to catch these roaming pebbles of chaos. But sometimes they get away from me, collecting obsessive thoughts like a snowball rolling down a mountain. If I don’t stop them, I could easily find myself second guessing.
Fortunately, I can check in with my inner wisdom. We all have it. We just have to imagine asking ourselves for guidance in the same way we would ask a trusted friend for theirs.
And of course, we have to listen to the answer.
If you found some value in this mindful musing, please share: A little empowerment goes a long way.