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Article Specs

Article ID: 9724

VoxAcct: 234607

Section: words

Age Group: Adult

Days Up: 3,589

Times Read: 4,598

RSS Views: 21,153
Intent Versus Impact

Author: Taylor Ellwood
Posted: May 29th. 2005
Times Viewed: 4,598

In choosing to practice magic, one of the hardest lessons I had to learn was the concept of responsibility for my words and actions. When I was a child, I would lie my way out of any situation. Lying was a survival tactic, one I used extremely well. But when I started practicing magic, I eventually came to find out that my lies could come back to haunt me.

My lies came back to haunt me in terms of the reputation I had among other magicians and Pagans. I was considered deceptive, manipulative, and cold, because I rarely seemed to care that I had hurt others. I had no problem utilizing magic to get what I wanted, even if that use involved some manipulation on my part. I had no problem, until one day I was put in a situation where I fully and finally realized what it like was to be lied to. I’d been working with another magician and some of our workings had been very intimate. Initially those workings had started because of a car accident I had been in. He’d offered to do some healing for me and I accepted. I never thought that he might have an ulterior motive.

As it turned out, he was using our interactions to do some magic of his own. He eventually told me that and I was shocked and angry, and felt used. I told some of my friends what happened, but instead of getting any sympathy I was curtly told that now I knew what it was like to be manipulated. My friends proceeded to explain my manipulative nature to me. I was even more shocked and devastated.

Why? Because not only had I lied to others, I had also lied to myself. And the worst lie you can tell is the lie you tell to yourself. Suddenly, on top of being a victim, I was forced to confront the fact that I had a similar nature. I would mull over what had been said for weeks and eventually come to the realization that I no longer wanted to be perceived that way. It was time to be honest with myself and other people.

Since that time, I have focused on leading a life wherein I am honest with myself and with other people. I have chosen to be responsible for myself and in fact to indulge in what might be called radical responsibility: fully realizing and claiming responsibility for both my actions and words and the consequences of those actions and words and - most importantly - the impact of those actions and words on myself and other people.

This is rarely an easy path to walk. Realizing my accountability for what I choose to say and do has shown me many flaws in myself that sometimes cause me to squirm in discomfort. Hindsight is twenty-twenty, but realizing that if you’d just been more honest with yourself, you could’ve avoided a situation, doesn’t make the situation go away. It just makes you realize that you need to face forward and deal with the situation, especially when it’s of your own making.

And how does this factor into magic? It is said that a magician’s strength in magic is measured by his/her word. What this really means is that if you aren’t honest with yourself or others the magic you do may be successful for a time, but eventually people will see through you or you’ll trip yourself up and learn a well-deserved lesson. The real strength of a magician is being so honest that the magic you do is always successful and doesn’t sabotage you to teach you a well-deserved lesson.

But (and there’s always a “but”), there is something to be said for how you choose to be honest in dealing with your own situations or dealing with other people. I know many magicians online and offline who are brutally and harshly honest and then wonder why people don’t like being around them. There is a time and place for being harshly honest, for shooting from the hips and calling it like it is, but such honesty is ultimately not very responsible on the part of the magician. Sure you can call it like it is, but if at the end of the day you have lots of people angry at you, it’s not worth the honesty. And chances are those people won’t directly confront you, because they are sure you won’t really listen to what they have to say. And at that point the situation isn’t really resolved.

Honesty must be tempered by responsibility, which is tempered further by strategy. When I think of responsibility, of being true to my path, something I have recently added to my walk through life is the understanding of intent vs. impact. The intent of your message may be to inform people about how to address a problem, but if you aren’t careful about how you word the message you may come off as an arrogant, condescending, egotistical person who seems to think you’re better than everyone else. In other words, the impact of your message may be radically different from the intent of your message.

Strategy is essential to being responsible, because how you choose to approach a situation can greatly determine the outcome of that situation. If your strategy is to come in guns blazing every time, chances are you’ll have a lot of upset people on your hands. However, if your strategy is to assess the situation and look at how you can frame your words and action to get the most positive effect out of the situation, you may find that people really appreciate your candor.

For instance, tact is a very useful strategic tool. Some people feel that using tact is being dishonest, but in actuality using tact is not dishonest. If I choose, for instance, to tactfully email you off an e-list or take you aside from a meeting and talk with you about a situation. I am respecting your feelings, your “face” in the group and at the same time I’m addressing the situation and getting it resolved. Nor should you think that tact doesn’t involve being straightforward. Sometimes, by choosing to focus on the solution, as opposed to how you honestly feel about the situation, you can make your point directly and tactfully and still deal with your emotions in a venue external to the actual situation you’re dealing with, i.e. taking the person or people aside privately.

At the same time, it is not tactful to tell other people your complaints about someone, without actually speaking to the person directly. My own policy is that any person I dislike knows how I feel about him/her, so if that person comes up in conversation, anything I have to say is nothing new to that person.

Still there is a time and place to be harshly honest with a person. If someone you love or care for is hurting him/herself, brutal honesty may be the most responsible action you can take. And for your self, brutal honesty can be useful, so long as you don’t punish yourself for the aspects or actions you see that you want to change. Focus on changing yourself, improving yourself, instead of beating yourself up.

In magic, it is argued that intent is one of the most potent tools we have. I agree, but it is our responsibility to not only be aware of the impact of our tenet, but also focus the intent so that we can achieve the best possible impact, in our own lives and the lives of others. To truly walk the walk is to take responsibility for how you choose to talk or act and know when to be harshly honest, and when to use tact. In truth such a path is so hard to walk because you have to balance your actions with the realization that once you act or speak, you can’t take it back. All you can do is deal with the consequences and try to remedy whatever situation you created. Think before you speak or act and walk your path carefully and with respect for others who cross it. In doing so you will learn not only how to walk the walk, but also share the joy of that walk with people of similar stripe.


Taylor Ellwood

Location: Portland, Oregon


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