Assuming the Worst

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When did this phenomenon happen? Is it just me, or do more of us tend to jump to negative conclusions more quickly these days?

My husband asked me the other day if I had noticed this…the tendency to assume the worst about people’s intentions instead of the best. And as I thought about his question, I realized there seemed to be some truth to his observation.

When I call a company for a service and get voicemail, I assume they won’t call me back and I’ll have to repeatedly try to track down a human.

If I go to a restaurant and have an all around pleasant experience, I am surprised instead of naturally expecting this to occur.

While driving, I often think someone is simply being an idiot or just downright obnoxious when they make a mistake on the road.

My friend, Kristin, wrote a blog post recently about her own experience out and about one day. A fellow driver noticed her daughter was out of her seatbelt and started screaming out of the window to get her buckled in, as if my friend was being an irresponsible parent. What the woman didn’t know was that my friend’s daughter’s little brother was making her daughter’s life miserable with hair pulling and hitting, and she had told her daughter to hurry and switch to another seat while they were stopped at a light.

I remember being at a stoplight one time when my dad was ill. We’d received bad news and I was an emotional basket case. The light turned green and I failed to move forward. Granted, I needed a honk to knock me out of my stupor, but there is a difference between an single honk and an angry succession of honks that proclaimed me to be an absolute menace to society.

If you’ve read my blog much, you know I often talk about the dangers of social media, but I definitely think this is one factor that has increased our poor view of one another. I’ve talked about how it’s dangerous to try to judge someone’s intentions online. You simply can’t do so accurately. And too often out of anger, desperation, fear or frustration we do post things we probably shouldn’t, but publicly shaming one another for doing so isn’t productive either.

Can you imagine how different the world would be if we began to assume the best instead of the worst?

What if we asked the rude cashier at McDonald’s if she was having a bad day? What if we simply said, “Motherhood is hard. Hang in there,” to the woman with the kid melting down at the grocery store instead of casting an angry glare? What if we tried to dig a little deeper to discover the reason for someone’s actions, instead of just taking them at face value? Maybe the person isn’t simply obnoxious, maybe they are hurting.

Our experiences shape us. And maybe we’ve been around long enough to have been burned one too many times. I feel like I fit in that category. Yet, I would like to make a renewed effort to see the best in people.

Yes, I know there are indeed people in the world that can be unkind, or even ruthless, just because. There are those who like to brag to be noticed, or say hurtful words to make themselves feel better. But, I would like to assume there is more to the story until they prove otherwise.

I’d like to challenge you to join with me in not jumping immediately to negative conclusions to help make the world a better place for all of us. Will you join me?

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5 thoughts on “Assuming the Worst

  1. Amy, yes! I will join you! This is so true, I was challenged at church recently to also apply this to your spouse, and what a difference it has made to believe the best about my husband. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Yes! Absolutely! I love this, Amy. Truly do. I hate reading comments online anymore, just because of this. So many assumptions. So many destructive words. We’ve forgotten how to argue in an honoring way with someone who holds a viewpoint that is not our own. I feel sad about this. I think it can be healed. I really do. Don Miller had a great post on this today over at Storyline.

    In a practical way, we’ve begun practicing this with our children, too. When they do something wrong, we try always to assume the best (they just didn’t know, they forgot, they weren’t intentionally trying to disobey) instead of the worst (they’re just trying to make our lives miserable, they’re rebellious children, they got into the fridge again without asking because they wanted to make us mad). We’ve found that when we approach our children from this place, whether or not it’s true, we remain calmer, and the situation–the discipline of it–remains a thousand times more peaceful, since we are not responding in anger but in genuine love and honor. It’s been a liberating thing for us.

    • Great advice as far as our children go. That’s something I always tried to remember when I was teaching, and sometimes it can be hard when there has been a pattern of behavior. I think it’s important to remember that patterns can always be broken, though. Wonderful thoughts. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Pingback: [Guest post] We’re all just doing the best we can. « Rachel Toalson

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