Human nature seeks to understand. Wounds, fear, and deception warp our reach for comprehesion into a desire to presume knowledge based upon preset assumptions. Anxiety prompts us to trade connection for self-protection. Instead of the spiritual nourishment of engaging intimately with other souls, we contribute to division. This pattern spins out of control as prejudices lead to racist brawls or terrorist attacks and paranoia turns to war.
But, misjudgments hurt us in smaller ways, too. We make presumptions about those who suffer in order to console ourselves with the idea we could never be where those people are. We assume the impoverished, mentally ill, or addicted somehow earned their place. Maybe those in jail or with recurring crises have created their lifestyles due to poor choices. Surely, we don’t make foolish mistakes like them. We keep them at arms’ length, as if the problematic trends in their lives are somehow contagious. In fact, we prefer our distance more because it insulates us from the truth–we’re more alike than different.
Even in our homes, we adopt a false mythology in which we hold godlike powers of telepathy and insight. We profess understanding of others’ motives and thoughts. Our defenses insist others in traffic and in our household intended harm or neglect. Among most couples I counseled, mindreading myths reigned as a major communication and intimacy barrier. Negative assumptions kill the very spiritual kinships meant to heal us.
While regulating behavior is necessary, we must carefully assess only what we can perceive and maintain an attitude of love. Resist the urge to self protect in fear or to delve into evaluations of a person’s soul. No one here needs to take over God’s job of eternal judgment. He’s doing quite well at it, and needs no human successor to take over the throne.
Any judgment of a soul made without the Holy Spirit is faulty. Only God can perfectly see and evaluate a human spirit. When we judge what we don’t know, we’re bound to get people wrong.
In addition to wrecking our relationships, assumptions also destroy the inner peace our guardedness sets out to protect. Walls of judgment, fear, and negative thoughts fuel internal dis-ease. Anxiety grows rather than settling. A negative focus will make an otherwise healthy person miserable.
Bitterness, presumptive negativity, and stress-prone attitudes also change the body’s chemistry and depress the immune system. While health can be affected by other things as well, pessimists and negative people create an internal environment conducive to the development of and worsening of chronic illness. So misjudgments don’t protect us. They can literally make us sick.
Most of us don’t realize when we’re making false judgments. Here are a few points to watch out for:
- Did I guess someone’s thoughts?
- Did I expect someone else to guess my thoughts or needs?
- What unwritten rules have I assumed others should inherently know and follow?
- Have I assumed motive or intention?
- Am I feeling anxious?
- Do I resist empathizing with this person? Why?
- Have I prayed about this?
- Does scripture support my current attitude?
- What does the Holy Spirit reveal?
- Is my attitude based upon God’s love for the other person?
- Have I ASKED the person to clarify what I am concerned about?
- How well have we been using clear, empathetic communication in our relationship?
- Are there triggers in this situation which remind me of a previous hurt?
- How well does my attitude reflect the nature and character of Jesus Christ?
- Am I willing to step outside my barriers to listen with an open heart?
- Do I care about this person? Why or why not?
- Could there be things in this situation beyond what I can percieve?
- How might we have more things in common than I first suspected?
If any other common thought barriers come to mind, please share them with us! I look forward to reading your comments.