January 6, 2009

We see, They see–Part 2

Posted in community, life, reflection at 3:35 am by jimazing


I am not sure how it happened, but I published my last post with comments turned off.  I have changed that and they are back on now.

A Quick Case Study

This mistake on my part might make an interesting case study of my last post.  My guess is that some of you saw the “Comments are Closed” notice and determined (based on my behavior of closing comments) that I was not interested in what you had to say.  If you did, you were incorrect.  Despite my behavior of turning off comments, my intentions were to hear from my readers and my desire is to make that as easy as possible.  One of the joys of blogging is receiving feedback.  I like hearing how my words affect you.

The prior post was about the “We see/They see” quote repeated here:

We judge ourselves by our intentions.
Others judge us by our behaviors.
We cannot see our own behaviors.
Others cannot see our intentions.

My intention was to share my thoughts and hear yours.  You saw my “closed comments” behavior.  I was blind to my own behavior until someone pointed it out to me.  Likewise, you could not have seen my intentions until I explained myself.

Communication is Key

I was also stirred by an email from a dear friend who’s expressed desire to begin to look for intentions more in the coming year.  I appreciate that thought and it leads me to ask how one looks for intentions.  I think it is important to note that the first and most important element in communicating behavior and intentions is communication itself.  The problem is not that we don’t try to see our own behavior, we really cannot see it the way others do.  It is not that we don’t try to understand the intentions of others.  We actually cannot know them.  The only way we can possibly know what our own behavior looks like to those around us is to hear it from them, and we can only know their intentions when they communicate them to us.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not talking about being nice.  I’m talking about communicating on a whole new level, something that does not come naturally and will take risk and effort.  It mostly is not modeled for us and it feels weird when we do it (but it is worth it).

Here are two unhealthy ways I could handle a situation with you: Let’s say that you do something that irritates me.  I could determine that you meant to hurt me and react based on that assumption.  I lash out at you verbally and we argue.  In that case, I didn’t understand your intention and you didn’t understand my volatile reaction.  Now let’s roll back the tape and replay it again.  You do something that irritates me.  I give you the benefit of the doubt by assuming that you didn’t mean to hurt me.  I conclude that your actions were unintentionally harmful.  I graciously choose not to respond to what you actually did.  While the first way may lead to unnecessary conflict, the second way can lead to being taken advantage of by the person who had ill intentions, but is never held accountable for his or her actions.

No matter whether one makes a positive or a negative assumption about the intentions of the other, the operative word is “assumption”.  Assumptions are not truth.  I hope I am not taking this verse too far out of context, but it reminds me of the words of Jesus in John 8:32, “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” The only way we can learn the true intentions of others is to communicate.


  1. Fernando Ibanez said,

    This is so close to my own struggle understanding “human beings”. I always suspected one aspect of my liking to computers was because there is no misunderstanding or guessing. I think about so many sayings when I read your post “You know what happens when you ASS U ME”, “Give the benefit of the doubt”, “The road to hell is paved…”… where did you ever find this quote? One could really ponder about this for a long time.

  2. great article

  3. Fernando Ibanez said,

    Also I deal with this with my kids – they don’t mean their behavior – there is a disconnect of how they come across and I try to illustrate to them how teachers/coaches/adults may take how they act. This also reminds me of “You may not have meant to run my foot over with your car, but it still hurts”. I think we also fail to own or accept consequences from our actions on behalf of lack of bad intentions. Sometimes consequences trump intentions and we need to deal with them. And finally I keep thinking of your story about the accident you had when the lady said “I have nothing to say to you” – What was her motivation?
    I’ve enjoyed these last two post immensely.

  4. jimazing said,

    Fernando – Thanks for your comments… and for pointing out that I had turned off comments on the other post. I am so thankful that I posted this. I have been sitting on it for a couple of months and now I cannot remember where I heard or read the quote. Wherever it was, it meant enough to me that I wrote it down and it still stirs me.

    I am trying to remember my own story about the accident that you mentioned. Maybe I’m getting old, but I cannot remember it.

    The interesting thing is that the inability to know our own behaviors or the intentions of others has no bearing on how we handle the situation. Sometimes awareness is enough. Other times it should motivate us to ask. It opens a whole new realm of thought though, don’t you think?

  5. Alicia said,

    Thanks Dad. It is gonna be hard to step out of the normal to view this from another angle, but I get what you are saying. She obviously had something in mind when she made these choices….assuming she was thinking. I will try to look for the reasons that I DON’T know and try to stop focusing on the things I DO know to see around this situation. It is still very very sad.

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