Intent vs. Impact

Parenting has taken on a whole new meaning in the video of the kids from Covington High, a predominately white Catholic school in Kentucky, who became embroiled in a national controversy on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. Rest assured, I’m not going to touch the politics with a ten-foot pole, except to agree with the people on both sides who say, it’s complicated.

What I will address is how this issue has affected me, an average parent. Specifically, what if that teenage boy was mine? Or what if my son was in the crowd?

Woulda, coulda, shoulda. Who knows for sure, but I think I would have talked to, no, fumed at and scolded my son on the following points:

  1. Intent vs. Impact – It doesn’t matter what you intended; it matters how it’s perceived by others. Was it a smirk? A smile? A misinterpreted plea for peace and understanding? Doesn’t matter what you think it was. It matters how Mr. Phillips perceived it, how the crowd perceived it (including your friends), how all of America now perceives it. They don’t know you; they certainly don’t know your heart, your faith, the fact you once helped an old lady across the street. They don’t know if you’re a pompous, entitled shit or a good boy who got caught up in the moment. Intent vs. Impact – you have to know this. It will come into play again and again throughout your life. Don’t let it come in the form of a lawsuit.
  2. Respect your elders. This is non-negotiable. I don’t care if you don’t agree with them, think they’re crazy, hate them, are uncomfortable because of them. Walk away. You don’t know more than they do. You just don’t.
  3.  I don’t care if you were provoked. Walk away. What did you gain by standing your ground? What did you lose? Which list is longer?
  4. Don’t be defensive. It just makes you look like a whiny little baby. Intent vs. impact. You did it. Own up to it.
  5. Apologize. Often and wholeheartedly. Doesn’t matter if you didn’t mean it or don’t believe it or are angry with others’ interpretations of it. Intent vs. impact. The worst man never admits he’s wrong. The best man owns up to what he’s done and learns from his mistakes. Show strength in humility. Be the better man.
  6. I love you, son. You’re grounded until you’re twenty-five. But I love you, and I always will.

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