Let’s face it … assumptions can be devastating. Usually based on a gut feeling or a rumor or innuendo, assumptions will most often be proven wrong in the end. Perhaps you think I’m being a bit dramatic when I say assumptions can be devastating, but I’ve seen them inflict irreparable damage to the hearts of people targeted by untrue statements and untrue conjecture.
The focus word often has far-reaching tentacles which work in concert to easily and quite efficiently choke the life out of innocent people caught in its trap. To be truthful, however, assumptions are nothing more than guesses or hunches based on misinterpreted or misappropriated evidence. The dictionary defines an assumption as “a thing that is accepted as true or as certain to happen, without proof.” Synonyms include supposition, presumption, belief, expectation, conjecture, speculation, surmise, guess, premise, hypothesis, etc.
Sadly, however, when a negative assumption is made about an individual, you can almost guarantee there is usually a heart issue at work as the root cause … perhaps related to gossip, jealousy, covetousness, anger, hatred, etc.
We humans have a tendency to think we’re Sherlock Holmes reincarnated. We look for clues to help us make unsubstantiated guesses about others’ motives and thoughts and tendencies. We see someone who has a certain look and we think we have them figured out. We judge what they may say or do, how they walk or talk, what they do for a living or even how they drive their car based on their little more than what is visible to us at the moment. It’s conjecture based on nothing tangible but a preconceived opinion we picked up somewhere along life’s path. Sadly, however, when we engage someone with a preconceived opinion, we do them a disservice (at best) which can ultimately lead to deep hurts that leave him or her scarred for life.
We are all guilty to some degree or another. Sadly, it’s a prevalent problem in the church. A young woman walks in with a baby and no wedding ring, people jump to conclusions assuming she had her child out of wedlock. Before ever meeting her or allowing her the courtesy of introducing herself and her child, some folks already have her figured out. Two young men walk in and sit next to each other and immediately someone will begin to wonder if they’re gay. They spend the entire service watching for more clues to justify their immediate assumptions about those to whom they have never even spoken. It would be easy to go on with situations not so unlike these that draw the attention of people who have a habit of making assumptions.
Can you imagine what that young mother would feel if she knew some of the women in the church were talking about her behind her back before they had an opportunity to learn she was a young widow having just lost her husband who had been serving in Iraq?
What about those two young men who walked in together? How would they feel if they thought people were assuming they were gay because they sat next to each other and exchanged friendly glances during the service when, in fact, one of the young men had finally convinced his friend to go to church with him after witnessing to him for years?
Making assumptions is very closely related to telling untruths, better known as lying. If we have no verifiable proof of something, we need to remain silent and make it a point to learn the truth. And, until we have our facts straight, we need to keep our conjecture and assumptions to ourselves lest it become nothing more than pure, unadulterated gossip.
My mother always taught me that if I didn’t have anything nice to say to keep my mouth shut. She was right, too. Things have come out of my mouth that have hurt people and ultimately hurt me as well. If I had only heeded my mother’s advice, a lot of hurt could have been avoided. On the other hand, there have been things said about me that were totally untrue but because of a heart issue in the one making assumptions, a deadly blow has pierced my heart leaving lifelong scars that need constant tending.
The Psalmist understood the tendency of the tongue to get carried away, making way for hurtful, wrongful and untrue words and statements: “Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips” (Psalm 141:3). It would do us all well to echo this prayer every time we are tempted to make assumptions about people, to say hurtful and harmful things about people or to pass along gossip at the expense of people.
It’s true that assumptions can be devastating. Let’s be careful not to fall into the trap of assuming we know why people do what they do and focus on making sure we’re doing what we need to be doing to set an example of guarded lips and fruitful speech so our Father is glorified in us and through us.
© 2017 Jan Ross
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