Confusion. Conflict. Pain. All are the product of assuming the worst in relationships. How does assuming wreak such havoc? Because it’s subtle. Assumptions are usually fleeting thoughts kept hidden. As long as we keep our thoughts under the surface, nobody can challenge the assumptions we are making. The result? We view these assumption as facts rather than guesses.
The cost of assuming is very high, yet we practice assuming everyday. I make assumptions about what others are thinking or the meaning behind their words and actions. I have no doubt that others make assumptions about me every day. All the while, the enemy is rubbing his hands together as he accomplishes confusion, conflict and pain. This, is not part of God’s purpose for His people.
Assume is defined as “suppose to be the case without proof”. Similarly, judge means “to make a conclusion about something”. Have you heard the saying, “Innocent until proven guilty”? Making assumptions about the motives of another person is the opposite. It would sound like this… “Guilty until proven innocent”.
Making assumptions about another person is like saying, “Guilty until proven innocent”.
Have you ever been on the receiving end of wrong assumptions? It’s the worst feeling. It’s like being stuck between a rock and a hard place. I would be willing to bet we are on both sides of assuming… Every. Single. Day… So why do we make assumptions? I’ll tell you…
Our brains are actually wired to fill in the gaps. This means, when we don’t have all the information, we draw conclusions. Drawing conclusions means we’re judging. We base conclusions on previous experiences, tangible information and feelings/emotions. This all seems logical, so what’s the problem? We’re drawing conclusions without proof. We’re drawing conclusions without facts. Then we react based on our assumptions. That’s a problem…
The problem with assuming the worst in relationships…
- We aren’t great judges. In fact we’re completely unreliable. Our assumptions are guided by moods, feelings and perception. We are simply not equipped to judge the motives of another person’s heart (Jeremiah 17:9-10).
- God alone is in the position to judge (James 4:12) because He is the only one that truly knows our heart (Hebrews 4:12, Jeremiah 17:9-10). His judgment is reliable because it’s based on truth, not His mood (Romans 2:1-3).
- Remember earlier when I said we make assumptions to fill in missing gaps? Well, that means we’re confused so we’re filling in the gaps by assuming. When we think that all the way through – assumptions really just add to the confusion. Right?!
- We avoid feeling vulnerable by assuming rather than asking. When we hide from feeling vulnerable we’re actually shutting the door to deeper relationships. We’re saying, “I don’t want people to know the real me”. In the long run, that leaves us feeling lonely, unnoticed and unloved.
Forgive and act; deal with everyone according to all they do, since you know their hearts (for you alone know every human heart). ~1 Kings 8:39b
So what is the cost of assuming the worst in relationships?
Our relationships are at stake here. Sure, one wrong assumption isn’t a big deal, but what if it’s a pattern? Wrong assumptions=nobody wins. For example, if I make wrong assumptions about the motives of my husband’s heart we both lose. Why? I walk away feeling hurt and angry. He walks away feeling defeated and frustrated. This pattern of wrong assumptions will break down trust and intimacy fairly quickly.
Why is it hard to assume the best?
When I stand back, I feel silly for not assuming the best. I have far more to lose by assuming the worst in relationships. Yet, in the moment, I don’t make that calculation. I forget to weigh the cost and benefit. Furthermore, the hearts of mankind are accountable to God. So if I have doubts, I need to entrust it to the One who is in the heart changing business…am I choosing to trust or make assumptions?
How do we break these harmful patterns?
- Confess it, shed light on it. As long as it stays covered in the dark it grows and gains power.
- Replace assumptions with questions (out loud). Ask clarifying questions such as, “What did you mean by that?” “Why did you (fill in the blank)?”
- The Bible is pretty clear that judging is part of God’s job description, not mine. So that means it’s sin when I do the judging of other people’s hearts.
When I catch myself making assumptions about another person’s heart, I literally say to myself “that’s not my job”. So, what is our job? I’m glad you asked!
- Love sincerely and deeply (1 Peter 4:8). Wrong assumptions don’t convey love.
- Build one another up (Ephesians 4:29). Wrongly assuming another’s intentions, tears them down.
- Give your fears, doubts and concerns to God (1 Thessalonians 5:18, Philippians 4:6-7).
- Assume the best of others (Philippians 2:4, 4:8).
Assuming the Worst in Relationships Wrap-up
Judging the motives of another’s heart doesn’t fall under the umbrella of God’s purpose for us. We’re not equipped for the task. God, alone is in the heart judging business. My job is to love sincerely and deeply, served with a side of grace.
Breaking this destructive pattern begins with awareness, confession and transformation (don’t worry God helps with that part). Next we replace assumptions with clarifying questions. All of this done prayerfully depending on God. Meanwhile, I remember my job description (and it’s not assuming the motives of other people’s hearts).
How are you going to respond next time you’re tempted to assume the motives of another person’s heart?