Intentions versus Results

It goes without saying that usually intentions and results are strongly involved with one another. Results cannot be completely controlled, but intentions can. (It is possible semantically, to speak of unconscious intentions, but that muddies the point being made here) In a moral sense, then one can only be held accountable for intentions. Life, however, is much more than defending oneself in an imaginary court of morals.

Intentions lead to results through actions, and action (and future intentions) get fined tuned this way. Actions are the connection between intentions and results. Results reflect much more than intentions, they also reflect the totality of human and natural forces active in a situation. Results are sometimes not fair, and sometimes bizarre. But over the long haul, results have a truth to them.

Intentions can also de-couple from results in another way. Within the mind, intentions can take on a life of their own, becoming a false reflection of what is happening. The effect on emotional and interpersonal functioning is to provide a closed system of self-justification that limits real contact. If one examines futile arguments, it is evident that one side is questioning results but the other side is defending intentions.

One can learn from results, but one cannot learn from intentions. To learn from results, one has to own the actions (which is not the same as taking the blame.) This also underlies the difference between a reaction and a response. In a reaction, which is a defensive action, the responsibility for the results is placed entirely on to the person offering the provocation (innocently or culpably) and the the reactor disowns the results. The intentions of the reactor is doubtless to restore peace of mind and harmony, but the reaction often escalates the tension. Besides fruitless wrangling in the short term, there is a block or 'immunity' on learning. A response on the other hand, acknowledges the provocation, and acknowledges some limitations of choice, but still owns the actions, and therefore permits learning. To also explains why coercing or manipulating people into doing something doesn't result in much durable learning. Even if the result is compliance, the unspoken intention is to resist. It is folk wisdom that everyone has to learn the important thing him- or herself from natural consequences, because artificial consequences are disowned.