At every moment and with every interaction, we have two choices–we can assume the worst or the best in others. Many times, our assumptions arise instantly, fueling thoughts which trigger emotions, and before we know it, we’ve worked ourselves up in a frenzy based on perception.
The problem is, our perception is faulty. Almost every single time. And our faulty perception hurts–ourselves, others, and our relationships.
Consider this scenario. I go outside and see trash left on our lawn–like a whole mess of it. Fast food bags; sticky, squished ketchup packets; crushed soda cups, their syrupy contents seeping into the grass.
Perhaps a group of teenagers live across from us. Maybe one of those teenagers tends to be quiet, not seen much. Maybe he even dresses … like a teenager. My conclusion? He left the trash. He must be careless, rude: part of the entitled generation.
But … what if I had evidence that indicated my husband had left the trash?
In that case, an entirely different assumption would begin to unfold in my mind. Because I know my husband to be a man of integrity who is often the first to serve others, I’d assume something must have happened. Either he’d been distracted and had forgotten he left the trash, or he’d been pulled away unexpectedly and intended to return.
Completely different scenarios, one heap of trash.
Isn’t it interesting how a little bit of background information can drastically change our interpretations of things? The problem is, we rarely have that much knowledge about most of the people we interact with on a daily basis. That’s why we must make the choice to assume the best.
We hear this a lot, and cliches abound telling us to be kind to everyone because we don’t know what kind of battle they are facing, or to show love even to the unlovable. But then conflict hits or we find a bag of trash in our yard, and our good intentions evaporate.
So how can we make our actions more consistently line up with our Sunday morning slogans?
First, we need to be alert to how our assumptions affect us in the day-to-day. We need to evaluate our interactions, asking ourselves if we jumped to a negative or positive conclusion. Did we assume the best in the individual–that they wanted to do good, or didn’t intend to do bad, or truly had our best interest at heart–or the worst?
Second, we need to pray, asking God to grant us His perception so that we can view others as He does, which is through a lens of love. Asking that He purifies our heart, because our heart determines our responses.
Third, we need to abide regularly with Christ, inviting His Holy Spirit to take full control, so that we consistently display the fruits of the Spirit–love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, gentleness, and self-control.
Have you ever had others assume the worst in you? How’d that feel? What did that experience teach you? What are some ways you have learned to assume the best in others? Share your thoughts in the comments below, because we can all learn from each other.