3 Keys to Avoiding the Danger of Wrong Assumptions
by Grace Fox
As a mom with three preschoolers, I often longed for alone time—a few minutes of uninterrupted peace and quiet to recharge my internal batteries. I watched my husband Gene climb into the car every morning and leave for his 45-mile commute, and I felt more than a tad jealous of his daily solitary confinement. From my perspective on the doorstep, his situation looked like bliss. He probably feeds his soul by listening to praise and worship music, I assumed. Or he enjoys deep and unbroken conversations with the Lord. Lucky him.
I expressed my feelings in a not-so-nice manner at the end of a particularly trying day. “It must be nice to have 90 minutes alone,” I said.
Gene’s face registered surprise. “You actually think I enjoy the commute?” he asked.
“Why wouldn’t you?” I said. “You get all that time to yourself.”
“Seriously? I spend 90 minutes every day fighting freeway traffic come rain or shine or snow,” he said. “If there’s an accident, those minutes multiply. And if I’m tired, too bad. I still have to remain alert. My commute is anything but enjoyable. Besides, I’d rather be home with my family than sitting alone in a car for nearly eight hours a week.”
Now it was my turn to be surprised. As we talked, I understood that I’d misread my husband for months. I thought he viewed the car as a sanctuary of sorts, and his commute as a mini vacation from the noise and constant demands at home that, for me, felt inescapable. I subconsciously convinced myself that, while his needs for personal quiet time were being met, he didn’t really care about my needs for the same. My wrong assumption fueled frustration that built for months and eventually caused tension in our relationship.
The dictionary defines assumption as “a belief without proof.” In the context of human relationships, we easily form wrong assumptions—mistaken beliefs without proof—based solely on our perception of a person or situation.
Trouble is, our hurtful past experiences often color those perceptions. So do our own fears and insecurities. Sometimes miscommunication plays a role. Even our physical health or—as in my case—lack of adequate rest influences our perception. Any number of reasons can cause us to view a situation or person through a negative lens, and that’s how wrong assumptions are born.
Those assumptions can cause serious damage. So, how can we avoid the danger they present to relationships that could otherwise be healthy and whole? Here are three keys I’ve found effective through personal experience:
1.Focus on truth.
Philippians 4:8 says, “Fix your thoughts on what is true and honorable and right. Think about things that are pure and lovely and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.”
Applied to relationships, focusing on the truth and on what’s honorable rather than relying on shifting emotions enables us to maintain clear vision and understanding.
My situation would have had a different outcome if I’d fixed my thoughts on truth: Gene went to work every day not to escape parenthood but to provide for our family. Instead, I allowed my emotions to rule, and I formed the wrong assumption that he enjoyed his commute as a getaway and didn’t care about my need for an occasional break. I believed a lie, and I doubted Gene’s intent and integrity.
Do you feel tension in a relationship? If so, ask the Holy Spirit to reveal whether you’ve developed a wrong belief about that person based on emotions or on a lie.
2. Ask relevant questions.
Wrong assumptions are beliefs without proof. They’re based in emotions or on incomplete or false information. Refute those wrong assumptions by asking questions.
In my situation, I might have asked Gene questions such as, “Parenting exhausts me sometimes. Do you feel the same way? If so, what do you do to fill your tank? What steps can we take so I can fill my tank, too?” I shake my head when I recall the frustration with which I struggled for months when asking a few simple questions would have helped set things straight.
1 Corinthians 13:11-13 says, “It’s like this: When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child does. But when I grew up, I put away childish things. Now we see things imperfectly as in a poor mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God knows me now. There are three things that will endure—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.”
Someday we’ll experience perfect knowledge. We’ll understand people fully, but until then, let’s admit we need help. For love’s sake—for the sake of healthy relationships—let’s admit we don’t know it all and then ask relevant, respectful questions to help gain clarity.
3. Ask God to help you see the person or situation through His eyes.
Our limited vision is sadly skewed and incomplete, therefore forming wrong assumptions happens easily. But God sees and understands all things. He knows the intent of another person’s words or actions because He knows his heart. We don’t.
In the past few months I’ve wrestled with a difficult in-law relationship. To avoid making wrong assumptions about this person’s intent toward me, I’ve asked God to help me see her through His eyes.
What do I see in answer to my prayers? A woman cherished by God but who grew up in a home where perfectionism was expected. Rather than assuming her words and behaviors are meant to hurt me, I now see them coming from a wounded place—from a heart that yearns for unconditional love and acceptance.
Wrong assumptions hurt relationships. Let’s focus on healing relationships instead.
Grace Fox is an international speaker and the author of eight books including Moving From Fear to Freedom: A Woman’s Guide to Peace in Every Situation, Morning Moments With God: Devotions for the Busy Woman, and One-Minute Romance for Couples. She lives in British Columbia with her husband of 33 years. Together they co-direct International Messengers Canada—an interdenominational ministry working in 20 countries—and lead short-term volunteer teams to Eastern Europe every summer. The mother of three grown children and grandmother of six, Grace enjoys babysitting, boating, and motorbiking. Learn more about her resources and ministry at www.gracefox.com. Connect with her on Facebook at www.fb.com/gracefox.author.
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