Monday, January 07, 2013

Good Intentions Are Not Enough


Lately I feel like I live in a new community named Good Intentions. It is a rapidly growing community with more and more people moving in every day. Most folks living here are a fairly happy lot. They smile during meetings, volunteer to take on responsibilities, and generally seem like the types of folks who would be good neighbors. 

But they're not. 

I think I even know a few folks who serve on the Good Intentions City Council. They say they are going to write you a thank you note for a gift or they indicate they'll get that document to you in the next day or so. I believe they really mean those things when they say them to me, but yet they don't. And in the seemingly busy bee neighborhoods where Good Intentions residents live that lack of follow-through doesn't stand out much because on the block are doing it as well. 

Doing what you might ask? 

Simple. Confusing making the commitment with honoring the commitment. It's as if they believe that by saying they are going to do something it actually is being done simultaneously. Oh to live in a world which really did operate like that. 

But until that time, it would serve all of us well if everyone in the land of Good Intentions bought into a time-share in the neighborhood of Good Actions. In that neighborhood people promise only that which they can deliver and they take great pride in delivering on their promise. They want to be known for being good as their word, so they consistently make good on what they say. They understand as Thomas Paine eloquently noted long ago, "Character kept is much easier than character recovered." 

If we don't want to be someone who has to recover his or her character because of not following through on good intentions, we need to surround ourselves with action-oriented, commitment-honoring neighbors.

Let's remember that the root word of intentions is intend, referring to a future state of being. But if we fail to act in a manner that produces that end state or result what good were those good intentions anyway?   Good intentions are not enough ... regardless of whether the commitments we make are to ourselves or to others.

In 2013, I want to be proud not just of my intentions, but also my actions, so I'm heeding the advice of the writer and monk Thomas Merton: "Take more time, cover less ground."

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