Do we judge others by their actions, and ourselves, by our intentions?
Sure. How could it possibly be any other way? We alone know our own intentions and rarely if ever, do we know the intentions of others.
We compound this mistake when we make assumptions or judgments. We compound it further, often whether we are in err or not, when we act on those assumptions and judgments. Sometimes this can set off a very nasty chain of events. Sometimes feuds. Sometimes wars.
I want to return to Plato's, "Allegory of the Cave" here. We are seeing shadows on a cave wall. We truly don't know what motivates others, do we? We simply don't have the time, all the time, to explore it. Sometimes we are dealing with people acting on unconscious fears (almost always) and it is doubtful that they actually know what motivated them. If they do, and they find it embarrassing, they might not even tell you the truthful reason.
Sometimes, if a statement or action puzzles me, I do ask. Almost always, I find that my initial assumption was indeed, wrong. As time has worn on, I find myself asking less and less. Why? I simply don't need to.
The solution is simple. We accept that people are simply living their lives. That they are making all of those unconscious mistakes that we are trying to free ourselves from. That what they say and do, has absolutely nothing to do with us. If that is too difficult, I have a default setting.
I make a positive assumption. I assume that they have a valid intention that I am unaware of. That I am simply unaware of that motivation and lacking an explanation- I give them the same break that I give myself. And I turn that saying around.
Wouldn't it be great if we could know and thus judge all others on their intentions- rather than make all of our fear driven assumptions and conclusions? This is made even better when we judge ourselves on our actions.
This simple process has allowed me to avoid conflict. In the three years that I have practiced this simple concept, I have found no need to engage in confrontation. That even in those instances when somebody makes a caustic remark or assault, I simply don't swallow the poison. I assume that they have what they believe to be a valid reason for leveling some diminishing remark. By not reacting to it, or reacting to it in a positive way, I keep the door open for some future moment. A moment which will be far less emotionally charged- a moment where we can have a far more productive exchange. It takes a little vigilance, a lot of acceptance, and the ability to interrupt your ego which may be screaming, "defend yourself!" It takes commitment.
Try it. It works.