Have you ever had the opportunity to sit as a spectator and watch a disagreement between two parties get so out of hand that it borders on comedy? No, I’m not talking about Kim Jung Un and Donald Trump. I’m talking about watching two friends get so bent out of shape over something that it darn near destroys the relationship (and about a dozen other relationships that get caught in the crossfire).
Over the past 3 months I’ve had just the opportunity. I watched as two parties (two families to be more precise) have argued over some fairly serious stuff, and it has started to get painfully immature. The crazy thing is that both of these families are amazingly awesome. They are leaders in their churches, they are actually related, and I still think they are more mature than 95% of the people I’ve met in my life. Yet, they are in the middle of a long term disagreement that they may never recover from. And from where I sit, just one simple relational principle could turn the whole thing around in moments.
And that magic principle is… Drum roll please…
Assumption is the mother of all f*#k-ups?
Ding, ding, ding… you guessed it!"
Thou Shalt Not Assume
When it comes to a behavior change in a person I have learned that rules and laws set in the negative only serve to empower that negative behavior even more. Whether through the condemnation of failure or the pride of success, laws only elevate the behavior as having power over the person.
As such, instead of focusing on what NOT to do when it comes to assumptions in relationships, I’ve found it much more useful to focus on what TO DO.
In this case, the only way to really keep from over-assuming what others mean when things are said and done is to replace assumption with giving them the benefit of the doubt. We can so easily assume that we know the motives of another person, especially when we’re in a disagreement, when the reality is that we hardly know our own motives half the time.
If you are a regular reader of Periecho and its authors, you’re likely the type of person who is fed up with this “assumptive” type of culture in the religious systems of our world. You know what I’m talking about… Those jerks who think they know what you meant when you mentioned something about “meditation”. Or those idiots who judged you when you didn’t immediately agree with their convoluted archaic theology. Or those assholes who talked crap about you behind your back because one of your friends performed that one particular sin that everyone knows is worse than all of the other sins out there.
Ya… That culture of stupid religious nut-bags who automatically assume stuff about you that’s not even close to a full picture!
Ya… Aren’t you glad that YOU are no longer like that?
No longer assuming YOU know someone’s motives when they react to something that’s not “normal” to them.
YOU rose above that assumptive mindset.
YOU left that culture behind.
YOU are tolerant, kind, and open minded.
YOU are not like those judgmental pricks in those brick and mortar coffins with steeples on them.
YOU are so much better than they could ever hope to be.
Ok… So maybe I got a little carried away in making my point.
Hopefully you actually got my REAL point.
What I’m REALLY trying to say is: please give EVERYONE the benefit of the doubt. Especially those who don’t think like YOU do, which is likely going to be big chunks of this world by the way.
Same Game, Different Name
Soooooo many of us have left “Churchianity” because of the culture that often comes with it. But as I’ve traveled in this world of the New Age Christian (a book that I’m writing), I’ve found many disenfranchised believers who have left their bad theology behind them, but without even realizing it - they brought the same judgmental culture into their new life. Only, they point their judgement in the direction they just came from.
Many of these people will be the first to accept a prostitute, a homosexual, a Muslim, a hippy, a Nazi, a new-ager, and “you-name-it” at their dinner table. As well they should. Yet, ask them to allow a judgmental Christian to sit at the table and OH BOY, out comes a whole heaping spoonful of “open-mindedness”.
For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith. For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Romans 12:3-5
I’m not saying you should give people the benefit of the doubt based simply on the idea that “you can’t assume you know what they’re saying, therefore, you can’t judge their words for what they are”. That would be stupid. If you can’t judge my words in some fashion, why even read this dang article.
No. I’m simply asking that you give people the benefit of the doubt by filtering their words through a bigger picture of who you know them to be as a person. If you think what they are saying in a particular point is heretical, of the devil, anti-Christ, judgmental, selfish, or the like… At least attempt to filter your opinion through the bigger picture of what you know them to believe. If you don’t know what they even believe, well, I would count that as a great place to start solving any disagreement.
Food for Thought
One of my favorite quotes of all time comes from the great Martin Luther King Jr., one of the most unassuming men of all time. When he was asked how, as a pacifist, he could be an admirer of air Force General Daniel ‘Chippie’ James, then the nation’s highest-ranking black officer, Dr. King replied, “I judge people by their own principles – not by my own.”
Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Philippians 2:3-4
Austin is just your average Christian who wants to play his part in changing the world. He is the Executive Director of Epoch, a non-profit organization dedicated to bringing the true ‘Body of Christ’ out of the age of exclusion and into the age of inclusion. He believes that everyone on the planet has a part to play in the family of God, and his passion is to help people find out exactly what that part is in their own life. He currently resides in Traverse City, Michigan, USA with his wife Joanie and his two dogs, Hops and Barley… and yes, he likes beer.
See all previous articles by Austin Fletcher