When I get a fountain drink, if possible, I like to add some cherry flavoring. There is one place I go that has alarmed me more than once. I order my drink and pull up to the drive-thru window to see someone squirting ketchup into a drink cup!
I know there’s no ketchup in the bottle. The restaurant keeps the cherry syrup in one of those retro, squeezable, red plastic ketchup dispensers with the pointed end. It’s actually quite smart. When the syrupy cherry liquid is in the usual flavoring bottle with a pump, it easily squirts all over the place, staining clothes and coating surfaces with sugar. But even though I think it’s a good idea and I’m aware that’s how they dispense the syrup, it continues to surprise me every now and then. The color, style, and shape of that red bottle is supposed to be ketchup in my experiences, and it’s difficult to keep in mind it could be used for other purposes.
It’s a good reminder for me to keep my assumptions in check. Just because most of my experiences have led me to believe something doesn’t mean I’m not in a situation where something contrary (or at least slightly different) is true. Just because I found trustworthy information at a source at one point doesn’t mean everything I ever find there is true. A solution I applied to a problem that worked multiple times might not be the best solution the next time. I still need to assess what’s happening. A person who gained my trust over time shows inconsistences; should I let the past dictate next steps or entertain the new information and changing situation?
I’m not saying we need to be suspicious about everything and everyone. That’s a dangerous place to be. It feeds our fears and is just as riddled with assumptions. We can be discerning. We can be thoughtful. We can be engaged and curious. We can ask questions without being accusatory. We can process theories without projecting blame. We can debate explanations without defaming character. We can entertain the possibility that we’re wrong. We gathered the wrong facts, trusted the wrong source, and created a story out of a snapshot. We can take a step back, change or widen our perspective, and have an aha moment that not only helps us but others around us. We don’t have to get it right all the time. We can’t. We won’t. How we handle that fact matters. How we let truth override our assumptions and preferences matters. How we seek truth matters.
Let’s do it.