How many times have we heard someone say “That wasn’t my intention.” It may come in the form of a joke that unintentionally hurt someone; or a comment that felt critical. It may be a realization when healing that someone who hurt you didn’t intentionally do so, but rather it boiled down to capacity. I often hear clients say “They didn’t know better,” or “They did the best they could with what they had.”
Intentional hurt is obvious; it’s tangible. When someone purposefully says something to sting, we feel it immediately. We know the bullies on the playground.
Unintentional hurt is often more difficult to process – we know how we feel, but we are also less inclined to say something; we may lean into excusing the behaviour because we ‘know they didn’t really mean it.’
Whether something is intentional or not, it is less about the intention and more about the effect. And if we realize that we have unintentionally hurt someone, it is our responsibility to apologize – sincerely. Saying “I’m sorry you feel that way” is not an apology. Saying “I’m sorry I hurt you,” is.
And we can find our kind voice in saying to someone else, “I know it was not your intention to hurt me with that comment, but it did and I need you to know that.” You may not get the response you were hoping for (an apology), but you can reward the effort of telling someone how you feel; of recognizing your own importance.
Photo credit: https://unsplash.com/@lmtrochezz