Intention? Accident? The Answer Should Make a Difference

It was the summer of 1989.  I was a waiter at a popular restaurant in Baltimore, Pargos.  My parents had recently bought a new Nissan Sentra to help shuttle around five kids and to get to work themselves. I was lucky enough to be able to use it to drive myself to work on that day.

I was on a two lane back road only about a mile from Pargos.  For some reason, I don’t remember why, I took my eyes off the road…


I slammed into the back of a car that was stopped waiting to make a left hand turn.  That car was pushed into oncoming traffic and another car went up on the curb. I sat there completely stunned staring at the hood of our Sentra that was pushed up to the windshield.

When my parents arrived on the scene I crumbled at the sight of them.  I was scared.  I had crashed their car.  I screwed up big time.  I remember my Mom and Dad simply trying to comfort me.

Later that day I was still devastated and feeling extremely guilty.  I went to my Dad and told him how sorry I was.  I will never forget his response.  He said, “Ted, did you mean to do it?  No, you didn’t.  That is why they call it an ACCIDENT.”

My Mom and Dad could have reacted in a negative way.  Called me irresponsible.  Forbid me to drive.  Punished me.

But, instead they recognized that my intention was not to wreck their car and were more focused on my well-being.

When is the last time you fired out at someone without slowing down to question their intent?

I have found in my life and work that rarely does someone have the absolute wrong intent.  For the most part people try to do what is right in life and at work.  Now, I am not naive.  I get that there are ill intended people out there.  But, for the most part, people want to do well.

This is where I draw back on the lesson I learned in that moment I approached my father about my accident and share it in this post.  Think about someone’s intent before laying blame, judging him or her, lashing out, or reaction in negative way.

How this shows up…

In Life

~ A few weeks ago we bought a new car.  Mostly because we wanted a safer car that would easily fit two car seats.  Five days after we got the car we were leaving the bank drive through and my wife, who was driving, hit the curb.  Ouch!  When we got to Panera Bread we checked out the damage…it wasn’t pretty.  My wife was devastated.  And continued to be all day.  She was still “off” when we sat down to eat dinner.  I asked her what was wrong and she was still stuck on the car.  She felt horrible.  I said, “Babe, it’s just a rim” and went on to share the story above with her…that’s what they call it an ACCIDENT.

~ Also a few weeks ago, I was with a client when I got a text from my wife that said Jaxon had an “accident” in the daycare at the gym.  When I called Angel, she explained that Jaxon had peed in his pants and was extremely embarrassed.  My heart sunk.  I use this example because Angel could have lashed out at him.  Frustrated that her workout was cut way short, she could have reprimanded him and put him in time out…or whatever.  She did not.  Instead, she comforted him and let him know that accidents happen.  Not all Mom’s would have done the same.

In Leadership

~ I recently was sitting with a manager that I coach and he was furious with an employee.  The employee had missed several deadlines and also handled a situation with a client wrongly.  This manager was ready to chop this employee’s head off.  I listened and then said, “Do you think ‘Justine’ purposely screwed this stuff up?”  His whole demeanor changed as he answered, “No, but…”  I cut him off saying, “Let’s recognize that ‘Justine’ has good intentions and figure out how we can best support her moving forward.  We actually uncovered that ‘Justine’ had too much on her plate and not enough training.

I could list many other examples…but won’t.  I am simply asking you to slow down and recognize if someone has the right or wrong intention and react appropriately.  We have to recognize that when we react negatively to someone that has the right intent (or had an accident) we make a bad situation worse…always.

If I articulated myself correctly here and you choose to let this soak in, my guess is it might just change your reaction or approach to someone or something before the day is over.

Stay True,


P.S. In the above light, I thought about blogging about this whole Target bathroom brawl, but chose to not put energy towards it.  I do ask, no matter what your opinion about it is, to slow down and recognize what Target’s true intention was in making the decision.  I am pretty sure it came from the right place.  A place that ALL should respect and one that ALL of us want…to be treated equally no matter our race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, etc..

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  1. Yes, challenging but so true about people. It takes allot of effort and emotional maturity to see outside of one’s own perspective. When we do we see that most people are good intentioned…and that accidents happen, without ill intent. thanks for the post!

  2. Great post Ted. I have to remember this when I get angry at the boys over stupid stuff that they do. I have a tendencie to blow up over small silly things. Luv you.

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