Isn’t it funny, how we are constantly making assumptions? Every morning, I make the following assumptions:
After a shower, I will be clean.
When I brush my teeth, the sugar bugs will be gone and I won’t get cavities.
My clothes are clean and ready to wear.
My kids will listen.
Coffee will make the world a better place.
Some of my assumptions, of course are based on experiences: soap has been shown to remove dirt and leave me smelling like some form of delicious odour, and my dental hygiene definitely benefits from proper brushing and flossing. Some are based on what I think will occur: although I assume the kids will listen, they often have their own agenda for the day. Sometimes, it’s a three coffee day that leaves me with a headache. These assumptions carry over into just about everything from assuming that I have enough gas to make it to work, to how my friends will react to news I tell them.
These assumptions spread into the workplace, some days assuming there will be an ample supply of coffee (I may need to write a post about my coffee problem soon huh?); that I will care for clients well; that when I send folks away with homework for the week, they will at least give it a try; that I will have enough gas to get home (spoiler: I also have a not-filling-the-gas-tank problem).
Over the last year, I have been dealing with the after-effects of many different assumption; most of them surrounding slowing the spread and prevention of a virus that took over the world. These particular assumptions, with their basis in science and research have had a lasting effect on my physical and mental well-being – providing both beneficial and detrimental results. Beneficial as I have had more space to implement self-care and better
hand washing pandemic prevention practices (ooo that sounds COOL); detrimental as it has kept this highly social being away from family, friends, and outlets for my energy.
In this past year, over and above my regular daily assumptions, I have seen the effects of much stronger, more detrimental assumptions. It was interesting for me, because I was not directly involved, but brought into situations via hearing friends process it. I was hearing, firsthand, their assumptions of what had occurred. Much of the assuming came from knowledge on their part; some came from disagreement on how things were unfolding. My emotional brain began to respond as I, in turn, made my own assumptions. If I’m being honest, as I made connections and assumed what ‘must’ be going on, my conclusions were not grace-filled. In all vulnerability, there were fairly grace-less. As I heard outcomes, my assumptions formed opinions.
Spouting off before listening to the facts is both shameful and foolish. Proverbs 18:13 NLT
At one point, I was invited to become more closely involved with one particular situation. Although the attempt was to frame it with growth, it was the opposite. I was being asked to surreptitiously control the movements of an individual under the guise of mentoring. Thankfully, it did not happen. The result? More assumptions. After this, and a few other instances, I found myself finding more and more evidence that led me to believe my assumptions were correct. Eventually, these assumptions brought up some pretty serious questions about what I thought I knew.
Look beneath the surface so you can judge correctly. John 7:24 NLT
More recently, my dear friend made a defining discovery that would bring some healing into her life. There were assumptions made about how I would respond when she told me, how our friendship would change now that the information was out in the open, and how our recovery family would react when she was ready to share. As she grew in her confidence, there were assumptions being made about how she spoke of the discovery; even assumptions that spilled over onto me.
Wise men and women are always learning, always listening for fresh insights. Proverbs 18:15 MSG
What this collection of assumptions had taught me is this natural inclination that we all seem to have is highly toxic. It creates pain that can be otherwise avoided by talking to one another, even when the conversation shapes up to be difficult. In many of these situations, it was assumed that a difficult conversation should be avoided. As I began to reflect on how my own assumptions were shaping up throughout these different situations, I began to ask myself: ‘What does Jesus say about these difficult conversations?’ Proverbs 18:15 talks about learning and listening to gain understanding. Matthew 18:15-17a addresses the best way to grab on to that understanding. Have a look:
15 “If another believer sins against you, go privately and point out the offense. If the other person listens and confesses it, you have won that person back. 16 But if you are unsuccessful, take one or two others with you and go back again, so that everything you say may be confirmed by two or three witnesses. 17 If the person still refuses to listen, take your case to the church. Matthew 18:15-17a, NLT
As this last year of assumptions wore on, I noticed that this was being done literally backwards! First approach these situations corporately, then as smaller groups and then on to the individuals! No wonder there was so much pain! It became evident from my perspective that the only way these situations went from zero to damaging so quickly was likely the end result of assumptions: to blind people from the words Jesus gave us. Through His word, we have a step-by-step guide to addressing seemingly impossible situations (see? another assumption) with love, grace, and respect.
Friends, I encourage you to reflect on your own assumptions. Have you been quick to judge? Made connections based on emotion over understanding? Perhaps you have been left wondering how a particular situation ended up the way it did. I also encourage you to take these words or wisdom from Jesus and challenge the way you approach difficult conversations. Working toward understanding, or treating others with love, grace, and respect will always, always, always bring growth.