Intention, a word loosely woven into sentences and statements.

A word we don’t often think about, yet burgeoning with great power. Intention possesses a trickle-down effect, seeping into every decision and interaction we make, it is there when we forget the meaning behind the gesture, waiting for discovery.

As humans walking through life’s myriad experiences, we lose sight of others. We are the tree in the forest, seeing only ourselves, what is in front of us, what affects us down to our roots. We so often narrow our experience to the soil in which we are planted and limit our vision to span only feet. We are our sensations and we come to believe that the direct consequences matter intimately to us alone.

Teenagers are funny, participating in the secret of what it means to live and breathe as a quasi-adult, while lacking the self-confidence and awareness to understand the intention behind people who tease them, who bully them in an effort to make themselves feel better about their own perceived shortcomings.

Picture a high school hallway filled with teens of every color, background—teens of similar insecurities. Each assumes they are the target, rebuffing advances and insults from those around them, slouching against their lockers as if a bullseye is emblazoned on their forehead, each feeling vulnerable and persecuted, blaming other teens for those feelings, when, in truth, the aggressor never even thinks of the impact on the victim.

The secret of teens is this: everyone is worried about themselves; no one sees the victims they create with their terrible, inconsiderate and hurtful behavior. Teens are too self-absorbed to understand the comments coming their way have nothing to do with them. Try sharing this in a talk over dinner, I think you’ll find teens will continue to dwell on their emotions and reverse the direction of the conversation so it points back to themselves. They can’t detach and deflect…not yet, or at least, not well. That’s why I  work so hard to not raise my kids to be Sheeple.

Intention. My middle child is leaving the nest early, swapping his brick and mortar high school to attend an online entity. Due to a virulent illness, an unpredictable work schedule, and a life he cannot control while learning disabilities pin him down, I know it’s the right choice. Since I’m quite ill I cannot expend the kind of energy he needs to establish a healthy, consistent schedule. He requires guidance and medical help, parents with energy to account for his every step. I have asked him to remember his intention as he prepares to move away from me permanently.

It’s a big step, setting up his residence in a home he only visits every other weekend, changing the fun parent into the custodial one, not as easy as switching one shirt for the other hanging next to it in the closet. He’s climbing into a different skin after years of wearing the same pelt around his neck. But it will be good. I am trying to hold onto that good as he focuses on logistical matters, packing his suitcase, the state of mess his bedroom should remain in for his visits over here, how another parent’s perspective might give him the relief of burden he desperately needs.

We don’t want to be sad about this and remembering intention; to accomplish graduation, to heal his chronic migraines and to allow me time to heal, well, it helps.

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Intention needs to be recalled when discussing politics, the shooting in France and the broad-brush comments I’ve read from people writing to exorcise terror, to explore understanding, their need to gain control. Intention has a place in the human state, allowing them possibility of forgiveness to insinuate into the core of discord. It is wishing a Christian Happy Hanukkah, the respondent replying with a smile they hope the same for you. It is the condemnation of terror, not of another race or religion as a whole. It is the rejection of destructive extremism, the comprehension that people of mutual ethnicities also condemn their brethren by blowing buildings, cars…and lives to smithereens.

Apply intention to the cases of recent cop killings, the #blacklivesmatter initiative. Or ask yourself what is the intention of the person in the next lane who cut you off, who then shrugs sheepishly as they pass, miming an apology because you were in their blind spot? What is the intention of well-meaning politicians who are only in tune with nervous guts, posh backgrounds and creature comforts? Of the corporate big wigs, the old guard, believing cutting output starts with employees? Is it to hurt people, or is it a visceral response to bubbling fear? If we understand intention, we can detect the solution, softly glowing in the background.

Such ill-informed intention begs us to educate patiently. Why can’t we prove our case for the greater good without slinging mud, or taking shots? Are we so weak we cannot envision that another may have insecurities?

Will we ever accomplish what we set out to teach, to change, to effect if we do not use gentle insistence?

We are the guardians of this world, nudging forward the restorative processes, it’s how we must be received. We cannot be Mission Impossible Robin Hoods, stealing into countries at midnight, overruling customs and kicking up dust, if we are to be believed and trusted. So, we must teach intention inside and outside our homes and country, which means stopping and pausing to assess our message, taking a big breath before reacting. Which means believing a kernel of good may exist, then squinting our eyes to suss out its location.

Intention is the guiding light in my family this week, as stakes must be pulled and difficult decisions executed. We will hold onto its potential to amend and improve as we move forward with one less kiddo under our roof, forever united in family, even as the number of eggs in the nest dwindles. We will be strong though tears may cut tracks down our cheeks, creating a pathway to the future, leaving behind the ghost of a child with golden, springy curls playing in the yard. Intention is a newly-christened adult who must undertake a different situation as we both diverge off the path to seize the chance that we can restore what has been lost.

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Original article appeared at The Good Men Project. Reprinted with permission.

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