So Many Assume

I saw a sign at the coffee shop:

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Indeed. How often do we make an assumption of someone without knowing the truth of their experiences, struggles, and dreams?

Maybe you’re assuming something right now. Such as, “Isn’t she a writer? Doesn’t she know this isn’t proper English?” Yes. Yes, I do. But it’s the quote I saw at the coffee shop. If I change it, it’s not a quote. (And by the way, it’s attributed to Anonymous, so I didn’t fail to give someone credit. I simply don’t know who gets the credit. Maybe the person didn’t want to take credit because of the poor English usage. Oh, wait. There I go, assuming.)

Assuming helps us make sense of the world. It’s a useful tool for helping us categorize all the sensory information we come in contact with every day. But a tool can be misused. We can be wrong.

The disheveled child coming to school doesn’t necessarily have a neglectful parent. Some kids can look pretty rough by their own efforts in the short ride to school. And maybe a family member is in the hospital and someone who doesn’t have much experience with kids’ hair helped out in the middle-of-the-night crisis. And the clothes they threw in a bag were the dirty ones the kid threw into the clean clothes pile the day before (because we don’t always fold clothes when we take them out of the dryer). And the kid had an emotional meltdown when told to wash her face after the chocolately breakfast cereal mishap, and who wants to make a kid even more upset after the rough night she’s had, and…

You get the point. You don’t know the story of the couple at the grocery store, or the new co-worker, or the clerk at the convenience store. You just don’t know.

Of course, some assumptions help us help others. We reach out with a smile or a helpful hand or a question as to whether or not they want us to call for help, because their body language tells us something isn’t right. But we’re not always helpful because of our assumptions. Sometimes we’re judgmental.

We assume. We assume we know. But we don’t know.

And we can’t always know. We won’t always know. But we also don’t have to let our assumptions run wild. We need to keep them in check and refrain from sharing them except in situations that might help someone.

Otherwise, our assumptions will likely hurt someone, including ourselves.

Defining Success

defining-success-in-your-organization-4-638But Moses responded, “Why are you going against the Lord’s command? It won’t succeed. (Numbers 14:41)

Every. Single. Time.

Success is not what we make it. Contrary to what we think or want. We’ve tasted bits and pieces of what we believe to be success and think we’ve figured our a sure-fire formula. Or perhaps it has been true success but we attribute it to the wrong causes. Or maybe we’ve been successful because we’ve relied on God but we then try to stay in that place or replicate the situation so that we get the same result. But success is only defined by God and it only comes through Him. We can only imagine and savor success when we set aside our assumptions about it and trust His definition of it, then let Him continue to change our concept of it.

After all, success is all about trusting Him.

Expectations Slap Me In the Face

2364b98bc293049f75580f87ff08b495Sometimes, expectations feel like a slap in the face. It might be someone else’s expectations of me, or it can be my expectations of others (or myself). Expectations can clear the path to discover great things and accept adventures, but they can also set us up for disappointment and unnecessary conflict.

I recently approach the exit door as I left a large department store. The doors were glass and very wide, letting in a lot of light and giving the appearance of automatic doors that would sense I was approaching.

My expectations were wrong. No door opened for me. I nearly ran straight into the glass before realizing I needed to put my hands in front of me and actually do something to get to where I was going.

Our expectations can put us on autopilot, forging forward, expecting a specific result, when the result is, in part, dependent on us and our actions, not just our assumptions and expectations.

We’re better off keeping our expectations in check, filtering them through truth and reality, asking God for strength to face and handle the next thing with grace and humility. Even when we fact check with Him, we won’t always understand and foresee what’s coming, but we won’t be quite as surprised either. After all, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26).

Your View of Others Matters

imagesWhat you see in others is the foundation of what you get from them.

I’m not suggesting we are able to will what happens, that our perspective becomes reality. However, our view of others matters. Have you ever noticed that someone else “proves” themselves over and over again, whether it’s positive or negative? You can’t understand how he or she can be so consistent. In some cases, it’s frustrating, because over and over, someone disappoints you. You feel attacked or taken for granted again and again. Perhaps it’s because of his or her consistency. But perhaps you are also noticing what you most expect to see.

When I was expecting our first child, my husband often commented on how many expecting moms he seemed to see all of the sudden. We notice what we expect, both good and bad. Seeing consistencies can help us make sense of things, but in some cases, it can overshadow evidence to the contrary. If we expect to only see confrontation, obstinacy, or passive-aggressiveness, we might overlook glimpses of attempts to respond differently. If we expect to see sacrifice, generosity, and patience, we might overlook irritability, avoidance, or manipulation.

People’s behaviors certainly impact the foundation of our relationship with them, but our perspective also contributes to that foundation. What assumptions are you making about people–both groups and individuals? How does that affect the way you filter the news, conversations, social media feeds, and your thoughts?

Your view of others matters.

What’s Your Filter?

Cupofdirtywater_zps02c58d15We all use filters. Yes, even those people who we’d say don’t have filters…the people who seem to have a direct link from their minds to their mouths. Others, who rarely share their opinions, might say they have the “proper” filter, only speaking when it’s absolutely essential. Perhaps you filter things through your experiences, counseling perspective, education, culture, and the list goes on. It’s important to know your filters, because if your filters are faulty, or even if the priorities of your filters are out of order, what you end up with at the end of the trail of filters won’t be as pure as you trust it to be.

For example, perhaps you’ve learned some great tools through counseling. When a problem arises, you return to those tools and the things you’ve learned and filter the problem through them. If the straining process resolves the issue, that’s all you need. You consider the solution a success.

Or, perhaps an issue comes up, and you can tie it to your education. You can chart the flow of information or organization because of what you’ve been taught, so as you strain the issue through your education, it all pretty much falls into place and makes sense. You can explain it, so from your perspective, the issue is resolved.

Maybe you find yourself in a situation that reminds you of a past experience. You remember what worked and what didn’t, so you determine how to respond based on what makes sense from past experiences, good and bad.

Learning from counseling, education, and experiences is important, even essential, to moving forward in life at times. Yet if they’re your primary filters, you’re missing out on something. Until our primary filters are God’s Word, we’re going to let some things through that aren’t His truth, and we might filter some things out that are. God’s Word has to be the first filter, not the last resort. We can’t run to it as a self-help book when we’ve exhausted all our other resources. It’s the top filter, where we initially pour our problems, issues, relationships, and questions. All other filters are secondary.

Know your filters. Don’t just assume because you are a Christian, you stand firmly on God’s Word in all situations and relationships. You might say you fully trust God, but do you, really? Are you letting Him consume every single moment of your life, every decision you make? Do you run to Him before anything and everyone else, then trust Him to guide you to the right resources and people He’s placed in your life? If you trust Him, really trust Him. And if you don’t, you can start right now, today, by asking Him to begin filtering every aspect of your life. You can depend on Him.

For you, God, tested us; you refined us like silver. (Psalm 66:10)

Hazy Vision

Jordan was just a short distance across the Dead Sea, but I couldn’t see it. I could see an outline of the mountains, but details were blocked by the haze that hung thickly in the air. I had stood near the same spot a few years before and seen much more clearly. Nothing had moved. Jordan was no farther away. No huge skyscraper had been built in the middle of the Dead Sea to obstruct my view. All that got in the way of my sight was air.

The air was saturated. It obstructed my view.

What gets in the way of our vision?

How do we see other countries when we stand at a distance and look through the haze of our assumptions?

Perhaps we have looked through the haze for so long that we don’t even realize how poorly we see.

We might not be looking through the haze at all…but at it instead.

What area of the world do you ignore? What nation do you look at through a haze? What people do you miss out on knowing because you focus on the space between you and them? They might be far away, or they might be right across from you. You might have to get closer and take some risks to push aside the obstructions and find truth instead.

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When the Fight Gets Personal

personalattackTo be attacked and accused when it’s justified is one thing. Being faced with the truth can be difficult, but you really can’t argue with the truth. Being wrongly attacked and accused is something else. And it’s difficult to take. When the fight gets personal, it’s tempting to fight back with the same tactics. It’s tempting to assume intentions, fling accusations, and choose the words you know will sting the most. But there’s another way.

I’m capable of fighting dirty. And by “dirty,” I mean anything outside the “fair” zone of Scripture. While I’m not proud of it, I’ll admit I’ve done it before. I’ve flung “you” statements, focusing on the person instead of the issue. I’ve angrily responded to something I heard second-hand or believed someone’s intentions to be instead of searching for the facts. I’ve stewed about something for a season before approaching someone with the issue instead of respecting him or her enough to clarify with compassionate confrontation in a prompt way.

And because I’m admitting to having fought dirty in the past, I’ll also admit something I’ve discovered about fighting dirty: it’s exhausting! It’s exhausting to hang onto things. It’s exhausting to let issues pile up and lead to bitterness. It’s exhausting to try to figure out what someone’s intentions are instead of just asking. It’s exhausting to take control of the situation instead of just asking, “How and when does God want me to respond?”

I don’t take fights as personally as I used to, because I’ve found that when I filter every conflict, issue, relationship, etc., through God’s perspective, my perspective changes. I learn things about myself I didn’t know. He reveals himself to me in fresh ways. I’m rejuvenated even through exhausting conversations. I have peace even in chaotic times.

I try to leave the “I’m being attacked so I need to attack back” mentality behind, because looking beyond it helps me clear my mind and heart, making way for God’s intentions. My perspective is less clouded when I remember I’m not the cause, result, or purpose of something. Involved? Yes. Fully in control? Absolutely not. That’s God’s job.

I recently had a conversation with someone who repeatedly assaulted me with verbal accusations, firmly built on assumptions that (I’m sure) made sense in her mind but made absolutely no logical sense. As she threw one blow after another, I had such an overwhelming peace of God’s presence. He invited me to glimpse at the situation with just a peek into what might be the reality of what was going on. First, she was hurting. I was being blamed for some of the hurt, but it really wasn’t me who could shoulder the blame. (And I’m not saying I am never to blame, because I certainly am! It’s just that I wasn’t to blame in this particular situation.) Instead of anger toward being unjustly accused of a laundry list of infractions, I felt compassion. I was sorry she was struggling. I wanted to help her work through some of the issues. I knew I wasn’t going to be the one to help in the big picture, but I committed to help in any way I could, starting with the way I responded…with respect and compassion instead of retaliation.

Second, I could trust the One I knew could shoulder the pain and hurt. Even though it felt personal, God assured me he didn’t see it that way. He reminded me of the pain he endured for me and reminded me that he’s equipped me to endure some pain for him. I don’t take up his cross because I can handle it. I take it up because he can. I respond in the way that he guides, because he says. I can’t do it in my own strength. I can only respond in his strength.

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? (Matthew 16:24-26, NIV)

Then he told me, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: ‘You will not succeed by your own strength or by your own power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord All-Powerful.” (Zechariah 4:6)

Because you have a personal relationship with Jesus, you don’t have to take a lot of other relationship issues too personally. It’s personal when God says it’s personal.