I wrote this back in January but chickened out of posting it. This morning, while trolling through a couple of the 147 drafts in my Pending Posts folder (yes, seriously), I came across it and decided to give it some air. We talk a lot about presuming competence (which is absolutely, positively vital), but I’d argue that we don’t talk nearly enough about the presumption of good intention (<– That’s a great post on the topic by E at The Third Glance.) Our energy is finite. We could save an awful lot of it simply by giving one another the benefit of the doubt.


The other night, things got a little out of hand on Diary’s Facebook page. I found myself trying to defuse, then defend, then police. It was more than I could handle. I searched for my rhino skin, but it was nowhere to be found. The doors were wide open and the words came in.

Eventually, I wrote this …


It’s nearly dinner time and I owe it to my family not to be glued to my phone throughout. Heck, I owe it to myself too. Please, treat each other with care. Agree, disagree, think I’m an idiot, I couldn’t care less, just PLEASE be gentle with your words and with each other. And you know what, even with me. Because I try desperately to be so with mine and with you.



You see, I write a blog. And a lot of people read it. More than I might ever have imagined. And when I do, I open myself up – I open my heart, my life, my family. And when I tell our stories, I also open myself up to interpretation (and misinterpretation), to criticism, to anger, to pain, to people needing a target, a face, someone to blame. I get that. I also get that sometimes – often, in fact, there’s a message inside their anger that I need to hear. And I try hard to hear it, no matter how it’s delivered. I try hard to understand that pain can eclipse tact. That raw nerves can catch fire and consume generosity. But I’m human; it hurts.

I’ve been doing this a long time. I write every day. That’s a lot of content. A lot of topics. A lot of opinions. No matter how hard I try, no matter how much I wordsmith and check, double check, and triple check – no matter how sensitive I try to be to every perspective out there, there’s no way that I’m going to avoid saying something that hurts someone. And when I do, I will feel awful. But I will also do whatever I can to make it right. And there’s a pretty good chance that all of us will, if we’re willing, learn something together.

When I wrote the post about WebMD the other day, I got a message from a reader. She told me that she had a daughter who was, in her words, severely mentally impaired. She said that she knew that my heart was in the right place, but she wanted me to know that she felt that the tone of the post was hurtful. When I wrote back to tell her that I would add to it ASAP to clarify it and that I felt awful that she found it hurtful, she wrote, “Don’t feel bad … I understand where you’re coming from.”

I added to the post. Because I got it. I get it. The conversation ended with a virtual hug.

Later that night, the comments on FB, along with some on the blog, took a very different turn. Accusatory. Angry. Offensive. Defensive. Hurtful.

I could hear the pain in the words. I knew that the anger was misdirected. But it hurt.

I don’t deserve to be called names. I don’t deserve to be accused of  writing what someone chose to read between the lines – words that I did not and would not write. I don’t deserve to be a receptacle for years of hurt.

After four years of turning myself inside out to make everyone feel welcome, included and celebrated here, I deserve the benefit of the doubt. I deserve to be approached through the lens of assumption that I would never, ever mean to hurt anyone. Or exclude anyone. Or demean anyone. And I deserve the assumption that if I do inadvertently, that I will try as hard as I can to fix it.

In other words, I deserve the same respect that I offer to each and every one of you.

I work hard at this. When I respond to your comments, I do it from a place of compassion. I try desperately to look at things from the perspective of others. I do everything I can to be sensitive to your feelings.

I deserve the same.

There are over 14,ooo of us here now. We are not going to agree on everything. And thank goodness, really. If we agreed on everything, we’d never have the chance to stretch and grow and learn and evolve.

But when we don’t agree, we’ve got to express our concerns respectfully. We’ve got to shoulder our bats and reach out our hands and say, “I’d like to ask you to look at this differently.”

Because when the bat is swinging, no one is listening. No one is learning. No one is growing.

Let’s listen, learn and grow together.

It won’t always be easy.

But family dynamics never are.


22 thoughts on “intent

  1. Exactly that. Let’s ask what did you mean instead of jumping to conclusions and accusations. After knowing you for 5 years now, I know that your heart is always in the right place and that you are tolerant and loving to a fault.



  2. I’ve read just about everything you’ve written and published here and no I don’t always agree with you but I always assume that’s because we are in different points in our lives now or our children have different needs or we have had different life experiences. Most of the time I just say to myself “OK, I’ll come back tomorrow and see what she’s talking about then.” I wasn’t aware of the FB issue but based on everything I’ve read from you, there is NO reason at all for anyone to assume that you would ever MEAN to hurt their feelings. I certainly have never felt that way and there’s no reason for people to come to this warm place with bats swinging. I’m sorry it gets ugly sometimes.

  3. Well said Jess. We all come from different places with children who have different abilities. We need to remember that. We all need a place to talk openly and vent if necessary but not at each other.

  4. Like I’ve said before – this is your space to say what’s on your heart from your perspective. I am constantly amazed by the way you handle other perspectives and opinions with such patience and grace. Thank you for inviting us all into this place. Thank you for always continuing the conversation. Well said.

  5. Thanks for being brave enough to share your voice. Your words have brought me comfort, understanding and peace. Because of your words, I strive to be a better parent and person. Thank you!

  6. Jess,I have learned a lot from you in a short time. It has always been clear to me in your writing that you are so aware of others and how they feel or how they see things…I try now to always take a step back and think of where the other person may be coming from with their thoughts. Most importantly I have learned from you to do this with my son because of you…I now often smile and whisper to myself when I observe him doing something in way that I have never seen before…As YOU Do…those words changed everything. Thank you!

  7. absolutely. seek understanding first! this applies to well meaning friends who say & do the wrong thing towards us & our children, as well! they don’t know where we’re coming from- we live a life they don’t have & can’t relate to unless we walk them there. you help thousands to understand & i’m thankful for you!

  8. Jess,
    I wanted to start off by saying how awesome of a friend, a person, writer, and a mom you are. Everything you write is beautiful and so well written. You have such a kind heart, you truly care and it shows. You go out of your way to try and understand and get it. I think you do a great job at it. Keep up the great work.

  9. Jess, thank you for writing this. And not just because you linked to me (which was a really nice surprise – thanks!). It’s because, as you said, “Our energy is finite. We could save an awful lot of it simply by giving one another the benefit of the doubt.” And more than that, it’s about respect. I’m so so incredibly glad you’ve written this post. Respect begets respect. And with that, we’ll all be much happier people, and we’ll all learn a lot more about each other, too. *Hugs*, E

  10. There are times to agree to disagree. Respect the other person’s opinion and move on…or challenge the opinion but not mudsling. That is possible and like you said, it provides the room for growth. I am sorry things got ugly. That isn’t right.

  11. For nearly two years your blog has figured into my morning routine. I have loved and admired how you are always willing to wade into the hard, messy stuff and use your gift of writing to help us all make sense of things. Most mornings I am nodding and sending you virtual high fives. But on the days I haven’t agreed, what always shone through to me was your heart. I always felt that the woman behind the words was someone with whom I could sit down and share a coffee and a differing opinion and walk away feeling heard, respected, and having learned a little something too. I love love love that you took a morning to stand up for yourself by simply asking people to treat you as gently as you treat all of us. And I love love love that you linked to E.

  12. O my word yes on the finite energy. We are the stewards of our energy. We have to use it wisely. I’ve found myself commenting less and thinking more lately for that very reason. But had to comment to say that! Ha! 😉

  13. “If we agreed on everything, we’d never have the chance to stretch and grow and learn and evolve.” So true. I continue to return because I learn from you, Jess, and because we are a “family” on a journey together. You have shown me that you care on a personal basis as well as on a broad basis.

    You spend so much time caring for each of us (I don’t cry and I am welling up a bit here). I know the post you are referring to was a while ago and yet you are still hurting a bit. Bless you, Jess. Rest in the assurance that, though there are people who will disparage, mostly from their pain, you have 14,000 reading because you have created a community. What do I always say when asked what is the most important thing to say to a newly diagnosed family? Find community!

    Thank you, dear one. Thank you. You bless me.

  14. I wanted to write something but just couldn’t come up with the words because I agree with you but find myself sometimes going off the handle when things that I am passionate about get to me – you should see my post today as a prime example….I need to learn to be calmer I guess – thank you once more for opening yourself to us and being so honest and true.

  15. Reading this post, I feel proud of you for standing up for yourself so publicly, clearly, and confidently. I don’t know you beyond your blog (over the past 3+ years) and I certainly don’t take you for someone who takes things lying down, but I’ve also come to think of you as a person who sees and feels the needs/pains of others as, or even more than, your own – such an incredible attribute on the one hand, but so easy to lose the voice of your own needs on the other. I remember seeing your January entreaty for commenters to be gentle with their words and I remember feeling so sorry that a situation (I wasn’t following) devolved into warranting it. I also remember feeling terrible for you personally. You are such an eloquent, and I truly believe effective, advocate on behalf of others and it is wonderful to see you speaking/writing on your own behalf as well. Your self-assertion and assuredness only give more power to the kind, warm, earnest, respectful, and thought-provoking voice I’ve encountered in everything I’ve seen you author.

  16. Your writing is a gift that over 14,000 of us are blessed to recieve. For every mis-wrapped package (and there are very very few of those in my 3 years here) we are handed daily gift-gems that sparkle in their delivery, their lessons, and their spirit.

    You deserve more than the benefit of the doubt… much more. Hugs.

  17. I am so grateful for the generosity of spirit and the incredible warmth and love in your comments. Thank you, my friends. Just thank you.

    Much love,


  18. I’ve had the pleasure of reading you since this past winter. It became quickly obvious to me that you are a profoundly good person. Always very respectful. It’s a shame you don’t always get that in return. You’re a refreshing, positive inspiration. The world needs more like you.

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