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'I Didn't Mean It,' or 'It Didn't Mean Anything'

Disclaimers of wholeness

These statements are those we use to convince ourselves and significant others that what we just did or said has no value. It says, “Don’t look at my behavior or my words, they don’t really mean anything.” It helps us to duck the flames of an angry spouse, friend, co-worker or even a boss.

If we didn’t mean what we said, or what we did, who did? Because someone or something within us meant for us to do or say what we did or said, or we wouldn’t have done or said it. How is it that we behave in ways that don’t mean anything at all to us? Why would we bother to behave in a manner that was utterly useless, had no value whatsoever to us? No. Every single behavior or word has meaning to us—in other words, we do/say it with intention.

So, for example, let’s say that you’ve had extramarital sexual liaisons. You went on a business trip or two or three and you had several one night stands with people you met on the road. Your spouse finally finds out and the first thing you say in response to the evidence is: “Oh honey, they didn’t mean anything.” That statement is supposed to take all of the power out of the spouse’s anger, get them to calm down and go back to the status quo. And, of course, if these affairs don’t really mean anything, then why worry about whether or not you are going to have to change the behavior—after all it doesn’t really mean anything. But if they meant nothing, why did you put your marriage on the line for them? And on the other hand, they mean a great deal to your spouse. Indeed, it means so much that s/he is considering leaving you over it. Not only does your statement discount the meaning of your own behavior, but it dismisses your spouse’s enormous pain.

Or, suppose you get drunk and you say some abusive things to your spouse. Later you apologize, saying, “I was just drunk, baby, I didn’t mean any of it.” Or, you get really mad, blow up and later say, “I was just mad, I didn’t mean it.” The truth is that we tend to be more truthful when our inhibitions are down due to substance use. And when we blow our stacks, we put words to the feelings that need expression. Those words may not be accurate descriptions of reality, but they are accurate descriptions of the intensity of our feelings, mixed perhaps with unresolved issues from the past or unrealistic expectations.

Bottom line? We mean what we say and do. So, rather than discounting our behaviors by disconnecting them from our minds, it might work better to get in touch with our real feelings, thoughts and belief systems.

Congruence is wholeness. Congruence means that the mind, the heart, the body, the actions, the words, are all moving in the same direction, all doing the same thing. When our behavior moves in one direction while the mind or words do something else, we are not congruent. If I frequently have extramarital affairs, perhaps rather than saying to myself or others that they don’t really mean anything, it might work better to ask myself what’s really going on at the level of my deepest emotions. If I’m saying something in anger which I later want to deny by dismissing its meaning, it might work better to get in touch with the hidden agendas or meanings behind the emotions that created the words in the first place. We ARE whole units, whether we know it or not. So, when words and deeds come out of us that don’t seem to match reality, they might be a calling to return to wholeness.

UPDATE: Jennifer Williams has written a beautiful piece on this same concept in her blog, entitled "True Motives for 'Sorry, I Didn't Mean It,'" which can be found at