Why assume the worst of others?

Faith & Inspiration

Dinner went sideways faster than you can say, “Check, please.” I had asked why he ate all four chocolate-covered dinner mints. He then accused me of having a “high sense of self” for guilt-tripping him for eating all the mints. Blame the wine, blame the sinners, either way, we were in trouble.

The culprit? Assumption. That dirty devil struck again and we were two unhappy people on the drive home, me assuming he was being selfish and he assuming I was too big for my britches because never before had I fussed about him eating all the mints.

A friend of a friend wrote The Question Behind the Question. To piggyback off this title, assumption is analyzing to death The Motive Behind the Action.A few days ago, a friend lamented such a thing on Facebook:

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“We can see what someone does. We cannot see WHY they do it. But judging someone’s motivation gives us a whole BIGGER area to criticize and hate. We can condemn and despise another’s actions AND now we can condemn and despise another’s reasons for their actions as well. I don’t understand why we take such pleasure in doing that.”

I don’t know what predicated his comment, but I identified with it. A lot. Assumption is at the root of so many relationship issues:

  • You assume friend is upset with you because she didn’t call and sing “Happy Birthday” in a silly voice like she usually does.
  • Friend assumes you are irritated with her because your last email was less than three pages long.
  • Congregants, due to last week’s sermon, assume their pastor is out to get them.
  • Viewers assume Miley Cyrus created a debacle on stage at the VMAs because horrible parents raised her.

And so on and so forth.

Assuming gets us in massive trouble, as playing God always does.

I don’t know why you didn’t return my phone call so I will assume it is because you have lost interest in me, and I am upset that you didn’t respond to my Facebook post because obviously that means you don’t care about my kids, and the fact you didn’t come to my gallery opening obviously means you think my art is rubbish.

On it goes, and meanwhile, the best of relationships are wounded, if not destroyed. All because we assume we know the motives behind a person’s actions. How easily we compose an elaborate soundtrack to accompany the action movie of our offense.

We’re told that only God knows the “offender’s” heart, more so than even the offender does. How can we bystanders even begin to know the “why” behind what he or she did? It is, think about it, ludicrous. Soothing and justifying, but ludicrous.

So, because we don’t know a man’s heart, because we are not God, because we are not omniscient, if we must assume, let’s assume good will in each other. (Literally) for the love of God, let’s stop assuming the worst. We are so rarely right and the cost of doing so is so very high. Besides, you know what they say about people who assume …

Amy Henry
Amy Henry

Amy is a married mother of six and a WORLD correspondent from Kansas. Follow her other "scribbles" at Whole Mama or by reading her book Story Mama: What Children's Stories Teach Us About Life, Love and Mothering. Follow Amy on Twitter @wholemama.


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