“It’s the thought that counts” is a popular phrase, used to extend the benefit of the doubt to others. Behavior CAN be less than stellar, but if intentions are good, we overlook minor transgressions. This is good. Relationships improve when we focus on the underlying well-meant effort, accepting that someone is simply human, busy, gave us an inappropriate gift, etc. Turn the phrase inward, however, and personal judgment rolls in. Women do this all the time, chastising themselves for perfectly normal, incredibly human thoughts. Thoughts like:
- “I can’t stand this kid/partner/relative.” Guilt seems especially strong with thoughts about our children and mothers.
- “I just want to run away.”
- “I have everything I’ve ever wanted and my life still sucks.”
- “I understand how parents throw a child against the wall.”
- “I don’t care if I ever have sex again.”
Sometimes, it’s NOT the thought that counts. It’s the behavior. What counts is how we follow through, how we continue to love and care for others who frustrate us to the point of impersonating Edvard Munch’s “The Scream.” Go ahead–have a powerful internal scream. Embrace your truly human emotions. Cut yourself some slack about thoughts. Focus instead on actual behavior–big picture, over the long haul. You’ve thought of walking out of a store with your purchases rather than stand in a mile-long line, too. There’s nothing the matter with you, if you override thoughts and behave in the ways you aspire to, the majority of the time.