Some years ago there were two families that lived in the same neighborhood. The fathers were friends and the entire families cared about each other. Both of the men were successful in business. Both of them were involved in the community and church. They even attended the same Sunday school class for years. Because they were so active and their kids were involved in various things, they would see each other frequently but then something happened. One of the men stopped attending Sunday school and even dropped out of church. Though his wife and children came occasionally, nobody really knew what had happened to him. His friend of many years who lived just a block away assumed that something had been said or done in Sunday School that made him mad, so he had dropped out of that group and quit coming to church. Apparently it had repercussions in all of his life because he stopped being at other activities in the community, whether just social or sports-related. He just dropped off the planet. His friend, again assuming, thought that whatever had taken place in his life just had ramifications that made him withdraw from everything.
After some time passed, the neighbor who was still active and going about his business in church and community activities would see his friend sitting in a chair out in his front yard just staring into the distance. At first, he would wave at him, but the man did not wave back so the neighbor carried his assumptions one step further by thinking that since the man would not wave back, apparently he had done something to hurt the man’s feelings and that the man had withdrawn from church and community and life because he was mad at him. As he would drive past his former friend’s house he got to the point where he wouldn’t wave. In fact, he would only see the man in his peripheral vision and would just keep on going because of this huge barrier between them that he assumed existed. All of this took place over a period of months that turned into a few years. Now these two friends and two close families had absolutely nothing to do with each other.
Then word came that the man who seemingly had withdrawn had died. What in world had happened? What had he been struggling with? What did he die from? It was only then that not only his former good friend but other people in the Sunday School class and church and community began to realize what an incredible ordeal he had been through as the man had been struggling with a severe health issue that among other things had affected his eyes. He had gone blind and was totally incapacitated to get up and go out anywhere or certainly to do anything on his own. In just a few moments of time, everything from the past few years came into a different focus than his good friend had seen through his eyes of assumption. The man was not mad at anyone and the reason he didn’t wave at people is because he could not see them. Rather than dropping out and withdrawing from everything, he was simply caught in that web of survival. No one knew, and no one bothered to ask.
That story actually took place and as sad as it is, it’s even sadder to realize that with variations of events, it takes place repeatedly — not because we don’t care and not because we are not friends, but because of our assumptions that we carry out in various ways that are wrong and sad. All of us with our quick minds and fertile imaginations can make assumptions. Pushing back on assumptions that we may come up with might be the wisest thing we ever do. In fact, if you’ve got to assume, start with assuming the best rather than the worst and as you push back you need to remember that your assumption meter will probably keep pressing toward thinking something bad. At that point, push back again.
A second thing that would be extremely helpful day after day is to ask. I don’t mean to ask about the person, but maybe asking someone that you know who has the same assumptions you do. Caringly and lovingly ask how they are doing. I am fully aware that in this age of HIPAA privacy laws that closely guard whatever is going on physically with us with health or diseases or blindness or brokenness, you may not know everything that is going on with someone and you may not need to know. However, you may be aware that they are struggling with life and you could pray and just be aware and sensitive to watch for an opening if there is an opportunity for you just to encourage them.
What if the fellow who got to the condition where he would just pass by his friend’s house and out of the corner of his eye see him sitting in his yard and just ignore and keep going, what if a time or two he had just stopped and pulled up there and spoken to him and said, “I’ve missed you. I haven’t seen you lately,” and the revelation comes that his friend can no longer see. Do you think that would change the way he thought? The way he saw him? Absolutely. Our caring attitude wouldn’t only change others but probably more importantly, it would change us.
Today take just a moment as you look at things and look at other people and just try this experiment. Take off your glasses of assumption and put on your glasses of care and friendship and as you go through the day, take a few moments to connect with the people with whom you come into contact with your new glasses on. I need to warn you that everyone with whom you come into contact may not be reading The Baptist Record or this article and they may have their assumption glasses still on, so be kind and considerate and just contemplate how you see life through your new lenses.
The author can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.