Mar 2019

Stepping on toesThe pain matters

A long time ago I had a discussion with a very dear friend of mine about the importance of intention. As an example, we used the following scenario:

I stand on someone's toes in a painful manner. There are 2 options;

  • I did it on purpose.
  • I did it by accident.

No other differences, assuming that the immediate effect (how hard) is the same.

Intention doesn't matter

Her argument was that the intention doesn't matter. The pain is the same in both cases and you get hurt. Even though the intention was not to hurt, pain happened.

Intention does matter

My argument was that the amount of pain you feel is dependant on intention. Because you feel worse if someone intentionally did something vs. unintentionally.


This was a long time ago, and I no longer agree with my original opinion on this. It took a lot to help me understand why.

Why intention doesn't matter

She was right. The pain is the same and it doesn't matter in her internal world "why" the pain happened at the moment it happened. Because you don't find out the why until much later, when you choose to communicate.

And it's not easy to talk with the person that just hurt you. You're angry, in pain and completely focused on dealing with the "now", not the "before".

When you cause pain in someone, the best you can do is try to understand how and how much they are hurt, regardless of your original intent.

When intention can matter

While it doesn't change how hurt they are right then, it can matter in the recovery of the pain. Learning that something happened by accident instead of intentional can help the pain go away faster.

But... This can only happen if I (the cause of the hurt) first show compassion and understanding of the pain that I've caused. And apologise for the pain, even if it wasn't my intention.

A strange journey

Of course she was curious why I changed my mind... A while ago someone who had read some older posts mentioned DARVO and that I should learn to not do this. It was absolutely horrifying to realise what I had done wrong and how I had done it wrong. In my literal nature I basically never showed compassion for the pain I had caused.

I still have a lot to learn in this. I'm very glad to know at least more of what I'm doing wrong. I wish it hadn't taken me so long.