I’ve been reflecting on some recent conversations, and a common thread of hurt and frustration I am hearing. This common thread is rooted in assumptions. We tend to make a lot of assumptions about other people and their experiences, don’t we?
I’ve been at the ugly butt end of assumptions and, unfortunately, I’ve been guilty of verbalizing such assumptions. I think we’re all familiar with the thought process. Comments such as:
– The woman who lost a lot of weight and overcame a lifetime of bondage to gluttony didn’t have to work at it. It *just* came easily to her, for some reason.
– The happily wed couple is *just* blessed. They’ve never had any real problems and couldn’t begin to understand the struggles of others.
– The young woman who seems so cheerful hasn’t really experienced any great pains in life yet, and a few more hurts will bring the maturity that will sober up her smile.
– The sister who has so much zeal for the Lord *just* has a special gift. She doesn’t even have to put much effort into Bible study or prayer or holiness.
– The family with such well-behaved children *just* has easy kids. If they had real parenting challenges then they’d have the same behavior problems seen in other families.
You get the idea. We could make assumptions in any number of areas, but the gist is the same. The other person exhibits something we wish we had (victory over sin, stability in marriage, lack of pain, good circumstances, joy, peace, zeal, etc…) and we respond by attacking the other person’s character, history, circumstances, or life experience. Sometimes, our assumption might be correct to some degree, but that does not validate hurtful or unkind remarks — and we are likely more often dead wrong than we are at all right.
In my limited experience, these sorts of comments are usually prompted by hurt, envy, pride and/or bitterness, and sometimes by a desire to have someone who can relate to our pain coupled with the despairing belief that no one will be able to.
I’ve found at least three things to keep in mind when tempted in this area:
1. We can never truly know what someone has been through, and we certainly can’t begin to know what they have experienced having only met the other person once or twice.
Take the time to get to know people. Never assume that what you see is what you get, or that what you see always has been.
Understand that, as the saying goes, there is no such thing as a free lunch, and for the results you see some work has to have been put in by someone, somewhere.
People might have experience and wisdom to offer that you could never have imagined them having. It may be well worth it to listen, to get to know them. It is downright foolish to write people off without giving them a chance.
2. We mustn’t compare our inside to the other person’s outside.
We know all the faults and closet skeletons of our own struggles. We can only see a relatively shallow view of the lives around us.
Their children’s behavior for an hour at church and our children’s behavior for 12 hours at home aren’t comparable. Their external cheerfulness during a ladies dinner and our long-term internal struggle aren’t comparable. It’s neither honest nor productive to make such comparisons.
3. Christ can relate with you, and He is the ultimate source of all comfort and strength.
Maybe the other person can’t relate with you this time. Maybe they’ve never experienced anything close to what you’re going through. Do you really need validation from another human being, and from that human in particular?
Rejoice with those who rejoice, for goodness sake! Be happy for the other person’s victory, blessing, or accomplishment. Then go to your Lord and Savior who as a man experienced great pain and temptation and agony and is able to aid any of God’s children who come to Him. He knows how hard it is. He also knows how to cling to the Father all the more despite the struggles and temptations.
Cast your cares on Him. Even when it seems there’s not a human on earth you can go to. Cast your cares on Him first. It’s solely in abiding communion with Him that we grow and bear fruit.