Situation A: We’re working around the yard, I slip, and drop a mallet on your foot. That’s going to hurt.
Situation B: We’re working around the yard, I get angry with you, and I smash a mallet on your foot. That’s going to hurt.
Situations A and B may have different relational consequences for us; that’s right and appropriate. But they’ll share very similar material consequences: damage to your foot.
I’d expect some social pressure for me to apologize and make amends if we were in Situation B, the deliberate wounding.
And I’d expect plenty of dismissive “But it was an accident!” if we were in Situation A where a tool that I wield harms you without any emotional content or ideological motive on my part. None of that background information would undo the damage to your foot.
There are so many contexts in which exploring people’s motives or sincerity makes for a long and unnecessary detour. In both Situations A and B, I’ll want to resolve the damaged foot and reduce or eliminate the likelihood that clumsy stumbling or intentional violence can happen again. Because I have a heart.
If your focus should be on healing, and mine should be on supporting that in any way I can, it shouldn’t be either of our priorities to determine how sincere I was during the incident, or how deep my understanding has become since then.
Centering me diverts our energies from turning towards solutions.
Ultimately, ignorance (accident) and intentional denial (violence) have the same impacts in the world. And the solutions are the same in both cases: aligning or re-aligning with right action.
Whether we’re talking about policy responses to climate change, getting the sleep you need to function, maintaining integrity in relationships, relying more on fact than hunch about GMOs, or accepting the reality of heterosexism, racism, sexism, or any other form of oppression, the results of ignorance, accident, denial, and violence are the same.
Take responsibility and do something.