Have you ever heard someone say something to the effect of “God knows my heart” when an interaction has gone sour? Have you perhaps ever said that? I have, on both counts. But it’s also a saying that has never really sat well with me-even when I’ve said it!

Here’s why.

When we say something like this what we mean it to say is “It’s not my fault this relationship has soured” or “I intended it to go differently” or “I am misunderstood.” What is at the heart of this saying is that our words or actions-or the way our words/actions were received-have not matched up with our intentions. Such sayings are an attempt to express our disappointment or indignation over some incongruence in our lives.

But when we express this sentiment we are operating under a set of assumptions that may not be helpful.

The first assumption is that it is our intention and not our words or actions that matter to God. We hide our failures to be Christlike behind a veil of good intentions that prohibit us from growing in our relationships to others. For instance, when we offend a friend in conversation or attempt to intervene on behalf of a friend and it is not well received, we console ourselves by saying that we didn’t mean to hurt them or muddle the relationship.

But regardless of our intentions, we have.

This is troubling because when we have this attitude we allow our intentions to disconnect from our actions and remain so. We do nothing to improve our ability to navigate sensitive conversations or difficult situations. We give up. And we suffer, and our relationship with others suffers. And our relationship with God suffers. God may know your heart, but he is equally concerned with your heart matching up to your actions.

This is really blame shifting.

Maybe instead of indignantly offering some pithy proof that regardless of the result of our actions we meant them for good, we accept responsibility for the way things ended up and sought reconciliation? Maybe the other person or party is not interested, but that really is beyond your control. And further, if you do not analyze your own words and actions you will not be able to recognize what your interactions contributed to the souring. Maybe it wasn’t my business to say that- even though I meant to help! Instead of getting upset, I should apologize for sticking my nose where it ought not go and seek to control my tongue. Maybe it’s a worse situation than a relational offense and I’ve actually ruined someones life or taken their livelihood. I need to make it right instead of insisting that I didn’t mean to do it. It doesn’t matter that much if I meant to or not; I did.

Own your “ish.”

Yes, there are times when despite our best efforts everything has gone pear shaped. That happens, and we can be comforted by the thought that God can fix it. But please, stop saying things like “God knows my heart,” because it communicates that you don’t care about your part in the problem and are not going to do anything to make it right. Even more, it communicates that you think your intentions matter more than your actions- they don’t. Be responsible. Learn what effects your actions and words have. Learn self control. Study your friends so you know how your words will affect them. Pay attention to the world around you so you know what effect your actions have on those around you. Don’t “quench the Spirit’s” work on your life.

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