ASSUMPTIONS: LET'S NOT MAKE THEM...
This morning Deacon James and I were reviewing one of the many tasks related to the daily operation of a parish office; namely, the text for our outgoing voicemail messages. This may seem like an insignificant thing, but it’s actually very important, especially for holy days. Anyway, in doing so, we noted that the next major feast is the Solemnity of the Assumption on August 15. This automatically took my mind to a possible topic for my next blog: assumptions and the caution against making them.
Like all of us, I have my weaknesses. I can pretty much identify those for you rather quickly. One thing that I really work hard at, however, is NOT MAKING assumptions. I really try to catch myself and not do that. Over the years, I have learned to ask myself, for example, questions like: “I wonder what kind of day he or she is having?” Or I’ll try to stop and remind myself, “hey, maybe they’re having a difficult time right now.” And so on. The fact is, you just never really know what’s going on in a person’s life or why they chose to do something a particular way. As a priest, I have also learned that people at times make assumptions about us. While this sometimes hurts, I’ve gotten use to it. For example, on a lesser, humorous level, some people assume that all we as priests do is drink coffee, read the paper, and play golf. At a more serious level, however, it is common for parishioners to go in and out of the hospital without us ever knowing it. It would be nice to visit, but if no one calls to tell us, we have no way of knowing. Some people think that we are automatically made aware of such things, when, in fact, it doesn’t happen that way.
The most serious assumptions, however, are the ones that we make about other people just in day to day life. Sometimes our assumptions are based on how a person looks, whether they smile a lot or not, the kind of work that they do, or, worst of all, what we “heard someone say” about them. It is unfair and wrong to do this to one another.
I’ve used the image of a traffic light before to illustrate other points, and it seems to be appropriate here: we cannot approach each other in the same way that we approach a green or yellow light. As we should always proceed with caution through an intersection, so too should we always proceed with compassion in our understanding of each other. In Matthew 18:15, Jesus specifically instructs us, “if your brother (or sister) sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone.” While this passage refers primarily to conflict resolution, it can also serve as a caution for us to NOT make assumptions about one another. In the end, we would all do well to give each other the benefit of the doubt. It would be really nice if we would learn to slow down and really try to consider where that person is coming from, what they’ve been through, and what’s going on in their life right now. In the end, it comes back to the golden rule, as it always does: treat others as you yourself want to be treated.