It happens in marriages.
It happens in businesses.
It happens in churches.
It happens all the time…every day.
We see someone do something (or not do something) and we immediately begin to put a narrative together in our minds about why they did it (or didn’t do it). We begin connecting dots to a story where we only have a very small portion of it. We find ourselves lost in our own imagination – making up a very compelling version of what we think is happening.
This may be an ok exercise if it wasn’t for one small very important reason – the narratives we write are often false ones that are simply based on our own preferences, experiences, or environments. In other words, we are adept at automatically assuming the worst about other people and organizations. It’s our default.
It’s gotten worse, in my opinion, because of our bent towards skepticism of others that’s been heightened by social media. But, that’s an article for another day.
A couple of ways that I’ve heard it said before are that “we accuse others and excuse ourselves” OR “we judge ourselves based off of our intentions and others based on their actions.” In other words, we jump to conclusions about others with such judgement and lack of grace that we would never use on ourselves (and probably should). We give ourselves grace in ways unlike we would extend to anyone else.
But, I want to challenge us to something better. I want to push you (and me, honestly) to re-find the lost art of assuming the best in others – always. This is hard…I get it. But, it is vitally important, especially today. Here are some examples that might help illustrate the point:
- When I don’t empty out the dishwasher at home, it is easier for my wife to assume that I’m just lazy rather than assume that I must have been busy with the kids and I didn’t have time.
- In an organization that I once led, I went with a new, distributor for all of our janitorial needs. The people in the organization assumed that I bought “cheaper” toilet paper because I was only concerned about the bottom line rather than assume that we switched because it was a better solution for us in other ways (and it was actually more expensive).
- Lately, Lakewood Church caught a lot of grief over their response to the hurricane that swept through Houston. People assumed that they were greedy and uncaring instead of assuming that the logistics to serve people well in such a catastrophe is enormous and even the most well-oiled church/organization would struggle to pull it off quickly and with excellence.
Those are just a few examples. I’m sure you can think of others. But, can I just ask you to do me a favor?
The next time your spouse does something that gets on your nerves, rather than thinking that he/she just did it to annoy you, try assuming the best about them.
The next time your company has to make the tough decision to downsize or lay off employees, try assuming the best about their intentions rather than assuming that they’re money-hungry and only care about the bottom line.
The next time your church or your pastor does something that goes against your tradition or your preferences or doesn’t meet your expectations some how, assume that they are following God’s lead and trying to do their best to serve people rather than assume that they are operating from a place of selfish motives.
Can we all commit to this for at least the next 30 days? I think if everyone committed to the principal of assuming the best in others, our world would immediately see an improvement and we would all reap the benefit of not having our actions scrutinized and criticized. Let’s make the world a better place and assume the best! Who’s with me?