Actions, intentions and grace-filled resolutions
“We judge others by their actions. But we judge ourselves by our intentions.”
The origin of this quote is unknown to me. My brother, Mike, spoke these words to me during a recent conversation.
We were discussing our mutual annoyance when others do not follow through with their promises. I don’t know if it was “the way we were raised” that we were taught to follow through with our actions if we said we would do something, or if it was from a bad experience that etched that principal into our minds.
Either way, it can be easy to get bent out of shape when others do not follow through, don’t deliver, leave us hanging or when we hear the infamous “I forgot.”
When time gets away from me and I don’t send that thank-you note or I don’t return that phone call as quickly as I “should,” there’s an interesting mix of guilt and embarrassment that run circles in my head.
I know it will not be the end of the world if that thank-you card never makes it to the mailbox, even if it is sitting on my table sealed and stamped. I know my cellphone will still be in my purse tomorrow and I can make that phone call.
But having not called today, I also know it can be that much harder to make the phone call tomorrow.
Now is the time of year when we are catching up with friends and family. Now is the time of year when we break out the new calendars and start penciling in appointments, vacation options, get-aways, and soccer games.
Now is also the time of year when we renew our gym memberships (or not). We set goals, we dream big, we reevaluate where we are. We look back and see where we have come. And we look forward to see where we might go from here.
Resolutions can be a great tool to help us keep things moving forward, especially if you have a group or community that can help you each and every step of the way.
However, sometimes resolutions can just be one more thing for us to try and accomplish in a day, one more thing to put on the list, one more errand we have to run, one more thing we have to squeeze in and feel guilty about if we forget.
Resolutions leave little room for grace. Resolutions seem to be more concerned with achieving, accomplishing, completing. Start off strong, power through the pain, finish well, then you move on to the next thing; but the next thing has to be bigger and better.
I’m not advocating for a ‘no resolutions new year’ nor am I suggesting that resolutions are only for the cold-hearted. But once we turn the corner from feeling merry and bright and a season of light and joy, we throw our nose to the grindstone and muddle through these next winter months.
We scour the land for others who have ‘fallen off the wagon’ before us, so that we don’t feel so bad if we don’t make the mark.
I wonder what it would look like if this new chapter, whether it’s through a resolution, a goal, a dream, a desire, or a wish, what if this new chapter moves us toward a more gracious posture in our day-to-day living.
Rather than looking for others who have fallen off the wagon in order to make our intentions look lovelier, what if we sat with those who have collapsed from the weight of their days?
What if we were attentive to those who are struggling around us? What if we became more mindful of the needs of our families, our community, and our world?
What would it look like if we stopped comparing our own actions and intentions to the action or inaction of our friends and neighbors, and began searching for ways our actions could be added to their actions?
Leaning in to these kinds of nudges, listening for these moments of grace, responding to the Spirit’s love in our lives can be a very beautiful event. This beauty grows and becomes more potent when we open our lives to those around us as we seek to love deeply and with integrity.
“We judge others by their actions. But we judge ourselves by our intentions.” During this New Year, may we be inspired to take the judging out of actions and intentions and lean into moments of grace and quiet beauty.