“Good intentions are very mortal and perishable things. Like very mellow and choice fruit, they are difficult to keep” (Charles Simmons).
IT IS IMPORTANT TO RECOGNIZE JUST HOW “PERISHABLE” OUR INTENTIONS ARE. If we do not act on them rather quickly, they die a sad death, never having done anybody any good.
As far as intentions are concerned, there are two different gifts we can give to our friends and family. First, we can honor their good intentions. When we know they have meant well, we can let that be our main emphasis, even if their actions have fallen below the standard of excellence. But second, we ourselves can be people who act with the best of intentions. If those who deal with us can take it for granted that our motives will always be honorable, we will have given them one of life’s greatest gifts. And this is a gift we can all give.
But, to tell the absolute truth, can any of us say that our motives are as honorable as they should be? It is extremely hard for us to be honest with ourselves in this matter. In many situations, the real reason for our conduct (deep down inside) was something we would be embarrassed for others to know if it were brought out into the open daylight, and most of us learned long ago how to persuade ourselves that our motives were honorable, even when the motive that was really driving our behavior wasn’t all that honorable.
But we can learn to have better motives and intentions, and we certainly ought to do so. In fact, there are few changes that would make a bigger difference in our daily lives than to commit ourselves to better intentions. In the words of Emerson, “A good intention clothes itself with sudden power.” So upgrading the quality of our aspirations is a high-leverage activity. As human beings, we grow exponentially when we improve our intentions — and then act accordingly.
Our intentions make up one of the most important elements of our character. That is why we need to be honest about them and work hard to improve them. If we concentrated more on primary things like these (and less on peripheral matters), our lives would leap forward.
“Don’t bother much about your feelings. When they are humble, loving, brave, give thanks for them; when they are conceited, selfish, cowardly, ask to have them altered. In neither case are they you, but only a thing that happens to you. What matters is your intentions and your behavior” (C. S. Lewis).