When you assume…

I made a terrible mistake. You know that article I wrote that went viral? It got 2000 comments.  I read them. Not all of them, but enough to know it was a huge mistake. I’ll say this: the overwhelming majority of the comments were positive, uplifting and encouraging. But then there were the others. The other comments that made huge sweeping generalizations and assumptions about…me.

Take this [long] comment, for example:

Screen Shot 2013-09-14 at 11.33.07 PM

This person was attempting to be kind. She wasn’t spouting mean or profane things, but she sure did make a lot of assumptions about me based on one thing I wrote. Just for fun, let’s list the assumptions:

1. I’m unhappy.
2. I’m average, normal, intelligent and pretty.
3. I don’t have guy friends who are looking for a lady.
4. I am single.
5. I’m not meeting new guys.
6. I’m too picky.
7. I pursue men.
8. I don’t have older, wiser women in my life.
9. I’m not doing anything to find “Mr. Right”
10. I’m single (again).
11. I may choose to answer my own questions, or I may choose not to.
12. I would want to move to New York.
13. I’m single (again?!).
14. I’m unhappy.
15. I feel trapped.
16. And single (sigh).

Whoa. So many things she’s assumed about me based on one article.

I’ll admit that at first, a comment like this stings. She’s reflected a lot of things onto me that I never said or intended to say. Part of me really badly wants to respond to her and point out all of the places where she is wrong, but then I’d be an indignant fool, no wiser than the rest of my “haters”. I’d be making assumptions as well, and I know how that stings.

Instead, this is what I want the commenter to know: she’s missing out. Because she made so many assumptions about me, she’s missed out. I don’t feel as though she is judging me for my choices, but I do feel like she’s jumped to a bunch of conclusions. She made assumptions about my life instead of taking the time to get to know me or ask me what’s up.

I’m no better, though. I do the same thing on a regular basis. I see or meet someone and automatically assume that because of the way they look or the way they carry themselves, I can make a guess about their lives, thoughts and emotions. And let me tell you, the majority of the time, I’m dead wrong. I’ve done myself and the other person a disservice. I’ve disregarded the heart of another, just so I can file their “type” away in a neat folder in my head. It’s so sad.

We’re missing out when we assume what’s in the heart of another. We are all brilliant and complicated humans, each created uniquely and for a purpose. When I assume, I am flippant about someone precious to God. I gloss over who they are. He knows this woman’s heart, and I don’t. He knows her pain, her struggle, her strength and her beauty. He knows it all, and he’s thrilled with her. He knows my heart, too. He knows my desires and my needs, my pain and my weakness. He also knows my beauty and strength. He knows me, and loves me dearly, but she does not.

We’re both missing out. We’re ripping each other off when we jump headfirst into assumptions. We’re missing the opportunity to learn more about our Savior by getting to know his creation. When I assume, I fail to see Jesus. When I brush by another, I lose. When I don’t take time to listen, I’ve missed out on something God is trying to teach me.

Don’t assume. You’re missing out.

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46 thoughts on “When you assume…

  1. Interesting – you are right we all make assumptions. Knowing you, what I got out of the article was that you are saying let’s celebrate the now. We are always looking to what’s next instead of enjoying where we are at right now or relying on God to teach us from where we are at right now. I wish I would have done this when I was younger, now that I am in the stage of life I am in – I am doing just that either enjoying every minute or trying to learn from where I am at. Good response to the assumptions Amanda.

  2. Mandie,

    Yes. This was something that got drilled into me in college. I used to be a terribly judgmental person, perhaps not outwardly, but I distinctly remember meeting and seeing all varieties of people during my freshmen year and thinking they were peculiar, or flippant, or self-absorbed, or shallow, or mentally ill (seriously, one guy had cerebral palsy and walked with a very peculiar gait) or any other number of things. Later I found out that those people I had prematurely summed up had also done likewise to me. Want to know the rub? Every single one of those people became my best friends over the course of my college career! I’m still very close to them today.

    That taught me something very critical: I cannot know someone’s heart without taking the time to invest my own in them. It also taught me to withhold my assessment of others until I’ve actually become reasonably acquainted with them. It is so easy to judge and project upon others, because we are all sinful wretches looking to justify ourselves. Since we are incapable of actually justifying ourselves, we naturally feel if we tear down others it somehow lifts us higher than them – in reality it just brings everyone lower.

    I don’t think your article was a mistake. I’ve read many like it from other observant, honest young women like yourself. You opened your heart up to the world, and it was both a warming and somber cry to the very heart of God and man. It evidenced your maturity in coming to grips with your place in God’s plan and what is and what is yet to come in your life. That takes a lot of guts, and I certainly don’t look upon that lightly. Naturally, however, when you expose your heart to the masses of the internet it will always be subject to misinterpretation and even complete disdain. You make that call when you choose to share your thoughts, and I think it takes a great strength to be resolute in the face of so much potential opposition. That is the difficult thing about the internet: it is hard to know people truly enough to offer constructive feedback, while not slipping into the two extremes of barren criticism or shallow, misguided flattery.

    As one distant relative in the kingdom of God to another, I would encourage you to keep being true to your calling. If that is writing to the internet, then so be it. Perhaps God has other uses for your gift of writing in addition? Have you considered writing a book sharing the beauty of God to other young twenty-somethings like us who may struggle with feeling deflated, or unsuccessful, or lonely, or inferior, or anything else that our age-group tends to experience? I think you would do well in it, should you choose to pursue that.

    Also, as an aside – just because it is a pet peeve – I get very aggravated when people talk about “women pursuing men” as if it is some great evil or detracts from femininity. Two of the greatest romances in the Bible – Ruth and Esther – were centered around women who pursued a man in the face of great odds and opposition, and were greatly rewarded for it. The reality of all human relationships – but especially ones of a maritally-inclined nature – is that they are two way streets. Men and women pursue each other. So Mandie, when you identify a man who is godly, desirable, and you think would make an amazing father for your children (I say that last bit because you’ve expressed a desire for children) then you pursue that man with all the Christ-likeness your heart can bring to bear.

    Just keep living in the love and redemption of Christ. I think you’re doing fine. The sentiments you have expressed here have more than evidenced your maturity and capability of sustaining what you are doing in a Christ-honoring manner.

    Many kind regards,
    CD

    • Wow, thanks for your comment. I didn’t say that writing the article was a mistake, but reading the comments (or as many as I did) probably was….maybe that wasn’t clear.

      “I cannot know someone’s heart without taking the time to invest my own in them.” That’s good. Really good. Thanks for adding that in there. I’m definitely thinking about that.

  3. Now you’ve opened up another can of worms. People think you meant WRITING the article was a mistake. I read what you wrote and thought you meant that reading a large portion of the COMMENTS was a mistake. Which is it? Now I have to know. Because people misunderstand me ALL THE TIME. They never know when I’m being sarcastic, which, by the way, is 98% of the time. (But not right now. This is the other 2%. I actually want to know if you regret writing the article or just reading the comments.) Also: “perusing” men. Yes, that must be your problem: You peruse them instead of letting them pursue you.

  4. I think you are rad. I’m glad that the rest of the world is now being exposed to your writing. My favorite line, “We’re missing out when we assume what’s in the heart of another.”

  5. Such a great point! I know I do that all the time. In fact, I made a snap judgment about a new co-worker just yesterday. Have never met him and know nothing about him, but I had decided what he was like and how I felt about him within about 20 seconds.

    You’d think I would learn. Two weeks ago a friend shared with me that a mutual male acquaintance had described me in a painfully unflattering light. I don’t know who the guy was who said it, but the words he used to describe me and the reasons I’m still single were deeply hurtful and cruel — and revealed that he obviously doesn’t know me as a person at all. He made some blanket assumptions about me based on my appearance and initial demeanor, without trying to go deeper.

    So I’m still working on forgiving that guy. But it’s given me a new perspective on the importance of getting to know the whole person before I make snap judgments about them. And the same goes for bloggers. Keep up the good work!

  6. Regardless of the message you received about your article, I think your article about being 26 and dealing with the results of not on the beaten path is fantastic. Thank you so much for writing!

    • Honesty answer: No. Because the thing that went boom was the kind of thing that I write and talk about regularly. It didn’t feel like a stretch to write that. It was just what was happening in my heart at the time. Current life circumstances are producing more “serious” and less silly posts, but that has nothing to do with the boom. That’s just life right now.

      At first I felt really self conscious about my Tweets because it felt like people were watching, but I just shrugged and tweeted about my sketchy apartment building anyway. I haven’t changed much, I’m just aware that there are more people watching now. Make sense?

      • Absolutely. I get it. When one of my blog posts got Fresh Pressed by WordPress, thousands of new viewers started caring what I wrote about. Telling me they resonated, connected, TOTALLY UNDERSTAND!, or disagreed. Internally, I felt a pull to all of a sudden write differently. Now I had an audience! Like you said, people are watching!

        Ultimately, I came to pretty much the exact same conclusion, you have. That post that got recognized was from my heart. It was my style, and with my humor. Nothing needs to change because they like…”me.” It’s why they commented, liked, and held discussions with me.

        It is a very unique experience. Your strength? You have the wisdom and confidence to know yourself in that way. Cheers.

  7. I taught alongside a wise woman a number of years ago who daily showed me how good it is to give people the benefit of the doubt – we never know, we think we know, but we don’t.

  8. I am constantly in awe of God’s perfect timing. He has been teaching me that I am in fact very judgmental toward others and its definitely not okay. We have not been given the opportunity to determine someone’s worth or salvation; we can’t just assume that someone is “good” or “bad” or “worthy of being a Christian.” In all honest, none of us are worthy but in grace God loved us so much that Jesus has atoned for our sins and washed us white as snow, rebuilding the bridge that connects us to Him. Thanks for sharing, your post has the gears in my mind turning.

  9. I truly enjoyed it when I read it, and it’s just refreshing to see someone who is not conforming, just because the world says to do it at this time, with that person, and at this phase of your life doesn’t mean you have to… But God!

  10. This is a great lesson. I’ve been way guilty of assuming things about people based on appearance or a casual brush-by. It makes me sad to know that I can be so judgmental sometimes.

  11. Ok, sorry for 2 comments, but I just read the article in question. To begin with, I’m not quite sure where all that lady’s questions/assumptions/advice or whatever it was came from. It’s like she didn’t read the same article that I did. And maybe it’s because I’m kind of in your same boat, but at 44, not 26. So yeah, I totally got it. Been through that completely.

    Assumptions, reactions and judgments are an interesting thing; they say everything about the assumer/judge and little to nothing about the other person. We make assumptions based on ourselves, our own feelings, and our own lives, really, rather than truly understanding the other person.

    Even me now, I am pretty sure I know exactly what you’re talking about, I feel like I lived it already and in some ways still am. For example, just tonight on my drive home I had the thought that maybe my life isn’t really a life at all, like how much meaning does it really have in the scope of the world since I don’t have a family of my own – no husband, no kids. Which, of course, is a completely ridiculous thought. But I guess that’s a kind of mourning or something. Anyway, I assume that I know what you were/are feeling, but I don’t really know. The only thing I know for sure is that I felt the truth of your post in my heart. And you’re right that life and worth are more than marital or parental status.

  12. I feel ya, on this one. A closer look into that ’26, Unmarried, and Childless’ post and it’s clear.

    “I am 26 years old. I don’t have a husband. I don’t have children. I don’t have a career. I don’t have what people expect I should have, but I am abundantly blessed with absurd, exhilarating, and fantastic things I would have never dreamed up on my own.”- you wrote that

    With just the acknowledgement that you are ‘abundantly blessed’ even within the often ‘absurd’ things, tells me you’re VERY happy ‘right now.’ Maybe a better word would be ‘content.’ Not that life, for any of us, is without worry or trouble- especially when the future is so unclear. But a ‘daily walk’ is about living ‘here and now’ for Him. Here and now in the opportunities God is constantly providing us. Your post, to me at least, captured that. It’s an exciting way to live, and a great challenge!

  13. Wow. I didn’t get those things from the article you wrote at all. Even the happiest of people can question their lifestyle when under pressure to change it. I’m happily married and my family loves my husband to death. However, before we got married my mom (because she felt it was her duty to make sure I knew this) told me a handful of times that I didn’t HAVE to get married; that the money she and my dad had spent and the plans I had made didn’t matter. If I wanted to change my mind I still could.

    This was totally well meant. She was just trying to make sure I was sure–and I was. But still, every time she brought it up, these feelings of uncertainty and inadequacy crept in. I would find myself questioning and fretting about whether I REALLY wanted to go through with it or not. Obviously, the answer was always yes.

    I’m not saying she shouldn’t have done that. Now as a mom, I would probably do the same thing. The point is that suggestion is a powerful thing, whether single, approaching marriage, or married. No one can blame you for responding to suggestions about your lifestyle in the way you described; it’s a totally human thing to do– no matter how happy you are!

  14. hey girl! found your blog from that post. LOVED that post. high fives to you for writing it. i’m not quite 26, but even still, i feel like i can relate. i also wanted to say that not only did that commenter assume quite a few things (and the same things over again), but she also missed the point. by a mile! she kind of sounds like the kind of person you were describing, which is hilariously ironic. (someone should tell her?) i didn’t get the vibe that you were unhappy in your situation. just unhappy with the way people react to it.

    keep doing your thing, mandie. it’s a good thing. and keep learning from those commenters instead of being discouraged by them.

    p.s. amen to your ‘why i write’ page.

  15. I agree with a lot of what other commenters said, it’s like that lady read a different article! I don’t think you came across as unhappy at all. I think you worded well what a lot of “single” :) people feel.

    I haven’t been married long, but one of the main things I have learned from my husband is how wrong it is to make assumptions. Not just in this area but in general. So many arguments and hurt feelings are caused by assuming things about people. What they meant when they said this or that. So I like the point you made in this article.

    I know what you wrote is helpful to so many. Thanks for writing!

  16. Mandie, thanks so much for this article. It was posted on Facebook by my wonderful former pastor, who is in his late 50’s, and lost his dear wife to cancer a few years ago, and is discerning the next stage of life (e.g. whether to remain single, date or even re-marry ever). As a 42-year old, I had a couple of immediate reactions after reading your article: 1) I wish someone had wrote something like this when I was in my 20’s, 2) the struggles of the questions and expectations that you posed continue to exist, and even on some levels intensify as you get older (e.g. virtually everyone around you is in a relationship, or married and with children, and parents (mine!) who have been hoping for grandchildren). Just as an encouragement, your writing is greatly appreciated and relevant to most ages, and perhaps even more so for some of us older brothers/sisters.
    peace,
    James

  17. Mandie, I had to tell you that I absolutely loved the article and your blog, which I’m now going to (creepily) follow. Your writing is so refreshingly honest, insightful, AND hilarious. As a fellow writer, I really admire your style. Kudos!

  18. Pingback: Whew, I am not alone. | It's Me, Natalie

  19. This definitely happens to us and by us, especially in settings like this. It comes with the territory–we can give and receive great encouragement and have these really cool interactions with readers/commenters, and then we’ll probably always have to deal with at least some mild form of assumption or misunderstanding (and that’s not even getting to the trolls…).

    Know that you’re doing an awesome job. Writing, putting yourself out there, and being vulnerable is something you’re made to do, but it does come with its costs. Keep it up!

  20. Phshh… such a PERUSER, Amanda. Typical with your typical perusing like ways.
    But seriously, sorry about all of the assumptions. My mom is forever catching typos in my posts and I’m always like, “MOM! Stop hating!” But it’s too true- hater’s really are going to hate- end of story.

  21. thank you both for the article you wrote and this post — as a woman who’s also 26, single and childless i’ve dealt with my fair share of (well-meaning) assumptions from others about who i will or will not marry and why. at first i was always outraged, but God showed me that my outrage was not helping anything at all and only made me angry and miserable. : ) thank you for your honesty and for pointing us to Jesus through it.

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