The umbrella behind us provided a small respite from the August heat. With the occasional splash of water hitting our skin and giggles coming from the fun in front of us, we relaxed to enjoy a long-awaited girl talk.
Conversation flowed freely, as it always has in our nearly two-decade-long friendship. But my tentative thoughts bubbled under the surface. I silently whispered prayers of direction, trying to decide whether to share my feelings or let them lie.
I had made an assumption about my friend’s recent behavior with me, but I wasn’t sure whether my assumptions had any basis in fact. Of course, in my mind, connecting the dots was easy. Surely my observations had been accurate.
At one point in the conversation, I felt like I had the green light to share my feelings. Despite the years behind us, the love we share, the fact that each of us knows the other better than most families know their own family members, I still desire to treat this precious relationship with care. It’s too important to let careless words carry the potential to wound.
After my words tumbled from my mouth, my breath caught in expectation of her response.
Relief flooded my heart as I exhaled in silent thanks. My assumptions – as grounded in observation as they were – proved inaccurate. There was, in fact, another explanation. One that made more sense, actually, given what I know to be true of my friend.
After seeing this new dimension, I understood where my seemingly rock-solid observations were also heavily tainted in my own insecurities, in some deep things going on within me that had nothing to do with her.
I couldn’t be more thankful that I learned the truth.
Love…rejoices in the truth. 1 Cor. 13:6
But the “what if” haunted me. What if I hadn’t learned the truth? What if I had remained convinced that my assumptions were accurate? I know our deep friendship would have remained grounded, but the dynamics of it – the intimacy – could have changed. In my fragile emotional state – attributing to her what I had experienced from others – I may have retreated, erecting a wall to protect myself from even her – one who loves me more deeply than anyone outside of my family.
In your anger do not sin. Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold. Eph. 4:26-27
We have to be careful not to make assumptions on another’s motivation. No matter what we observe, we will never truly know the heart of another.
If I mistook the motivations of a friend whom I know so well, what does that say about how I may mistake the motivations of those I don’t know as deeply?
I fear so many relationships are strained simply because we attribute motivations on others that simply aren’t grounded in truth. We make observations based on behavior without knowing that even our seemingly objective conclusions are likely skewed – either in our own perception or by our own perspective.
When a friend doesn’t text you back, is she avoiding you? Or is she just busy?
When your husband doesn’t affirm all of your hard work, does he not appreciate you? Or is he just so caught up in his own tasks that he doesn’t notice the details like you would?
When the pastor refers to a sin that you struggle with, is he talking directly to you? Or are you just hyper-sensitive because of your own battles?
When your child isn’t invited to the party, is she being excluded? Or were there just a certain number of spots and they have a large family?
Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 1 Cor. 13:7
No good thing comes from assumptions. So what do we do when we just don’t know what is truth in a relationship or circumstance?
- Consider what you know to be true about the person. Does your initial assumption fit with what you know of this person’s character? If not, then likely there is another explanation. If you don’t know the person well enough to know her character, then assumptions must stop immediately. Wouldn’t you want someone who didn’t know you well to give you the benefit of the doubt?
- Pray for direction. Some circumstances – like the one I described with my friend – require clarification. But with some, it’s best if we overlook the issue. How do you know which to do? If it’s something you simply can’t seem to get past, then ask God for direction. Ask Him to show you if you should talk to the person. If yes, ask for direction on the timing. If no, ask for Him to help you get past it. The last thing you need to do is sit and mull on the issue. Trust me, I learned this the hard way. It will tear you apart inside and will disrupt all of your relationships, not just that one.
- When in doubt, assume the best. This doesn’t mean take unnecessary risks when safety or toxic relationships are involved. It may be necessary to set boundaries and have a time of distance. But for normal, healthy friendships, always assume the best.
A person’s insight gives him patience, and his virtue is to overlook an offense. Proverbs 19:11
What do you think? Do making assumptions on others’ motivations or actions disrupt our relationships?