Monday we talked about expectations and I was blessed to learn that I’m not the only one who saddles my friends with all sorts of unrealistic baggage! Thanks for sharing. However, I don’t think our expectations are the only way that we create unnecessary complexity in our lives. I believe our relationships–that sweet sense of fellowship and community that we have when everything is functioning the way it was meant to–are often waylaid by a second destructive presupposition: false assumptions. We’re too hard on each other because we expect and we assume.
Number 2: Assumptions I think assumptions are different from expectations because they deal less with what we do and more with what we think. Let me give you an example. I have a friend who is an amazing cook. Everything she makes is divine and her dishes always garner oohs and aahs wherever she goes. Now, since she’s so great in the kitchen, I automatically assume that any meal I would make for her would fall far short of her standard of excellence. Surely my chicken casserole would end up in her garbage disposal. So I’ve never brought her a meal. Not when her kids were born. Not when she was sick and couldn’t cook for her family. I’ve never even offered. And she’s probably assuming that I don’t care because I haven’t met her expectation (i.e. I haven’t showed her that I care through my actions). See what we do to each other? She expects something from me, but I fail because I assume she wouldn’t be wowed by my offering which leads her to assume that I don’t care. My failure to act has led us onto a psychological battlefield, one where we spend sleepless nights staring at the ceiling wondering why our dear friend is so cool and distant. Yikes! This is a hypothetical but it sounds so close to the truth I think I’d better get cooking!
I honestly think that dealing with assumptions is more difficult than weeding out expectations. Our thoughts are slippery, tricky things that are hard to control. I guess the most helpful advice I’ve received on battling my own runaway imagination is to stop taking myself so seriously. A few weeks ago some friends of mine got together for coffee and didn’t call me. I could assume that they’re mad at me for some reason (surely they’re getting together to talk about me behind my back!), but I’ll save myself a lot of agony by realizing that the truth probably sounds a lot more like this: they just plain forgot. Or someone was supposed to call me and didn’t. Or they know that I’m busy right now and they were trying to do me a favor by not tempting me with the siren call of a girls’ night out. If I have the strength to assume the best (and I don’t always have that fortitude), I can step out of the junior high drama of relationships and exist in a healthier, more stable community.
So, your turn. Do you jump to conclusions? Are you the type of person that always assumes the worst? Or are you one of the ever optimistic, life’s a bowl of cherries, and “I believe the best” sort of people? I’d have to say I fall pretty firmly smack dab in the middle of the two. I’m an eternal optimist, but I’m tender, too. It’s hard to be confident enough to assume that when someone narrows their eyes in my direction, they’re just squinting at the sun. But I think I’d be a much happier, more settled person if I could convince myself of that more often.