The Final Word

by Sarah Markley

henry james

I’ve done this before. In fact, I do often this without thinking.

I make assumptions about people based on what I see. What I hear. What I observe. Because in reality, all we do have is our five senses.

I assume things about a family’s parenting because I watch the children run like hooligans through the church halls (Oh wait, those are my kids.) I assume things about a marriage because I hear how she talks to him.  Or I watch how they spend money/take vacations/make choices. I assume things about a friend because she stopped taking my calls and responding to my texts.

But you and I both know you can’t really know a thing unless you’re in the thing. But we live our lives like we do. We chat chat chat it up about other people and we don’t try to look inside. Even if we could really see the true parts of each other, we often fail to try. We don’t take into account that each one of us has a story, long and involved, full of twists and turns and hurts and griefs.

I can’t really understand a parent’s heart and their children unless I am that parent. I can’t really understand a couple’s choices unless I’m one of them. And I can’t understand, truly, the heart of a friend unless I am her.

Henry James said, “Never say you know the last word about any human heart.”

We cannot make those assumptions about someone’s inner life based on what we see on the outside.

I found myself in this trap yesterday, to be honest, and the words were out of my mouth before I could even catch them. And I actually said it.

“She isn’t a believer.”

She isn’t a believer.

I said that.

And that is NOT what I meant. What I meant was that I didn’t know if she was. But I made an assumption based, not on conversations with my friend, not on any profession of not following Christ, but on stupid, simple observations I had made. I tucked them away in my mind and then when asked, those words tumbled out. And I’m embarrassed.

Only God knows. And I shouldn’t assume.  We should never assume.

What faith begs us to do is to let God have the last word about humanity. It begs us to allow God to have the final say about a family or a marriage or the heart of a man or a woman. Faith begs us to live our lives in a way that we are responsible ourselves, and for ourselves only, to a God who knows each one of us more intimately than we know ourselves.

And if we decide we need to make an “assumption” about someone, let us try, with all love and good intentions, to look with God’s eyes into the heart of a person and remember that each one of us has a story.



17 Responses to “The Final Word”

  1. Megan February 13, 2014 at 7:25 am #

    Wow. I needed to hear those words reiterated today. “Only God knows. And I shouldn’t assume. We should never assume.” An amazing reminder…”And if we decide we need to make an “assumption” about someone, let us try, with all love and good intentions, to look with God’s eyes into the heart of a person and remember that each one of us has a story.” Thank you thank you!

    • Sarah Markley February 13, 2014 at 2:15 pm #

      thank you megan!!

  2. Adrienne Graves February 13, 2014 at 7:41 am #

    “What faith begs us to do is let God have the last word about humanity.” Beautiful! Absolutely beautiful words, friend….thank you! I needed to read on both sides of this post today.

    • Sarah Markley February 13, 2014 at 2:15 pm #

      thank you friend!

  3. Zhanna February 13, 2014 at 8:02 am #

    It’s always easy to assume and to talk but what we really should be doing is praying.

    I struggled with this a lot in my 20′s.

    Especially when I’d see issues in marriages or just in the way a certain person carried themselves.

    I would talk about it and in the midst of that talking, certain things are said, and you know you’ve gone too far.

    And that’s exactly what Satan wants.

    Even if you something isn’t right where it’s not just an assumption, the best thing we can do for someone is pray.

    • Sarah Markley February 13, 2014 at 2:14 pm #

      well said, zhanna!

  4. Lisa February 13, 2014 at 9:12 am #

    Thank you for this message! It is so easy to pass judgments or make assumptions, but only God really knows.

    • Sarah Markley February 13, 2014 at 2:13 pm #

      so true!!

  5. Lisa February 13, 2014 at 11:10 am #

    II Cor 13:5 tells us to ‘examine ourselves’, and I John gives insight to what the life of a believer will look like. That said, there is a reason that it says to ‘examine ourselves’. It is EASY to fall into the trap of comparing myself with others to either prove my superiority or to show I’ve got work to do. (Examples of pride, or of self-depreciation) But neither of these approaches are particularly helpful–since I’m on a faith journey, and the work isn’t something I can do myself but something the Spirit starts and finishes. Thanks for this good reminder today. Only God can see into someone’s heart and know what is going on there.

    • Sarah Markley February 13, 2014 at 2:13 pm #

      yes!! i love the way you explained this!!

  6. bonitarose February 13, 2014 at 2:42 pm #

    this is something I have tried to instill in my grown daughters. No one.. absolutely no one.. has the right to judge your relationship with God. No one. Why do I feel so strongly about this? Because i was judged. In my past, by prior church members, by my ex husband, by friends I lost, by my own father who disowned me. No one has that right no one.. None of us has that right. You are human.. and that’s okay.. while reading your story, it made me smile.. because you get it.. you get it.. we all have our stories… and although some of us may be rough and tough around the edges and don’t always shine the way we should for Jesus… often we love Him so so much.. it’s just that sometimes, our lives get in the way of that… loved reading this.. love you for sharing. xo

  7. Brenda February 13, 2014 at 2:51 pm #

    This is a timely piece for me, as I was just thinking YESTERDAY about how often I make assumptions and fail to respect people. Many of us have been trained that way, but it’s no excuse. Thank you!

  8. Diana Trautwein February 13, 2014 at 11:20 pm #

    Right on target, Sarah. We don’t ever know anyone’s whole story, yet we all make those snap judgments, all.the.time. I catch myself at it more often than I like – and I always try to say (out loud, if possible), I’m not in their shoes. . . I cannot know all the pieces of this. Thanks for this good, good reminder.

  9. Judy February 14, 2014 at 9:13 am #

    I think I should print this out and put it on my fridge. You nailed it.
    “What faith begs us to do is to let God have the last word about humanity. ”
    As someone who is an introvert, I struggle with this coming at me too, as I am often judged as aloof or whatever. You would think I wouldn’t be so judgmental then, but I am awful. I have fought against how I was brought up in that regard my whole life. It has been interesting though, to see the issues I have had to deal with in life, and how God is always there to steer me through my cloudy vision to realize how little I know.
    Thanks for this piece, just so needed.

  10. Chris Malkemes February 14, 2014 at 10:09 am #

    What is in the heart of man is in the heart of man. Would we have picked a murderer to get the Hebrews out of Egypt? Would we have picked that scrawny shepherd to be the King of Israel? Would we have picked Peter? Would we have picked Paul who was so bent on destroying what we had built? The heart of man is in the heart of man and God knows, yes God knows. I’m glad He knows because left to me it would have never gotten off the ground. That is the truth, Sarah. That’s the truth

  11. donna m. February 16, 2014 at 7:41 am #

    Perfect! Once again you nailed it! :)


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