Thursday, February 28, 2013

Intent or result?

The question on the table this morning is: is it sin if you do something in good faith, with the best of intentions, but hurt someone anyway? In other words, is it intent or result that is/cause sin?

How often have you been hurt by someone, talked to them about it, and had them answer,"but I didn't mean to. That wasn't my intent." Or even, "I was only trying to help the situation."? Still you were hurt anyway, sometimes deeply so. You don't want excuses, as those answers seem to you, but apologies. You want the other person to take responsibility for the pain they caused you and to ask forgiveness for it. Often--the more mature among us--do exactly that, do ask forgiveness.

Still the question lies on the table, at least on the table in my house. I should say, the table in my heart. You see, I'm the one who has been 'only trying to help the situation.' I'm the one who, with the very best of intentions, hurt and made worse what I had hoped to make better. What I saw as acting as a bridge was actually acting as a barrier between people. I've done so because I can't stand conflict, am such a peace-maker that I'll do just about anything to bring it about.

I think it's possible probable that I've taken on this role my whole life. As a child, when our parents were out in the evenings, my older brother and middle sister would often get into disagreements. Often these fights became wrestling matches. I hated such fights--they made me VERY stressed. And I'd stand on the sidelines, saying, "Don't fight, Don't fight! DON'T FIGHT!!!!" Yes, finally yelling as loud as they were for them to stop. Now I'll admit that part of my motivation was that I wanted to be able to tell our parents that I hadn't been a part of them, but our parents didn't find out about them anyway (It seems to be we had a code of silence about them). Mostly my motivation was simply that I couldn't stand the escalating tension between them. So I tried to intervene, though I really wasn't very successful at it (they were both a whole lot bigger than me!).

Later, I got more sly (as it were) about my interventions. When friends would be upset with one another, I always wanted to be Switzerland, not taking sides, but the place where peace between the parties could happen. But I suppose even then there were many times when such positions backfired on me, when it seemed two-faced and disloyal to one person or the other, when my intent was not equal to the result.

And now the stakes are much higher. Two of my best-beloved have had an ongoing struggle to understand each other, so I've acted as something of a translator between them. My intent has been to help them understand each other's language. But in the last couple of days, it's come to light that what I did for good was not good. In fact, it had the opposite effect. I've not only hurt them but actually made the barrier between them widen.

Hence the question: is intent or result sin?
And of course, I know the truth. We all do. It's the result that counts. We can think of extreme cases that show up on the news daily--domestic violence is one of them. "I didn't mean to kill her, I just wanted to scare her" is something we hear as a defense all the time. She's dead nevertheless.

 It doesn't matter what I intended, it only matters what has come of it. And what has come of it is something that I'm in no small way responsible for. And must--MUST--repent of, ask forgiveness for, and also ask Him to turn me around. The peace-maker is part of my made-in-His-Image self; I'm not saying I should ever despise that or ask Him to take what He gave away what He intended me to be. But I am saying that He must rein it in. It must be in submission to Him. Even our gifts must be used in surrender, under His control. I must do what HE intends me to do and the result has far more chance of being in line with what He wills. Far more being completely, that is.

I asked forgiveness of the parties who have suffered because I stood between them. I told each that I will step out of the way. And come what may in their relationship, by HIS grace, I will keep watch and pray and listen. And ask Him to muzzle my mouth.

Then we'll see what result He'll bring.

2 comments:

Pamela M. Steiner said...

Wow. This is a tough one!I guess I don't consider it sin to try to help people we love, unless we are trying to force our own will on them and not allowing God to do His work in His time. So, I guess you are correct to ask forgiveness of both parties...and God...and bow out of the way and let God do His work. I'll remember this the next time I have "good intentions"...Thanks!

Kristina said...

I don't think that it's necessarily a sin if you hurt someone while intending to do good. A person may still own an apology, though. In the case of a person scaring someone and killing...I think that's a little different, you know? Perhaps I'm wrong. But I do see things as situational to a large degree. Now perhaps (just an example) your motivation was a sin even if your intent was good. Then I could see there being sin there. If you were motivated by selfishness or pride or whatever...you know? Of course I cannot fully judge this situation as a passing-by outside observer, though, so just my thoughts, and take them in general terms. If you truly think you sinned, I do not want to contradict that.