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.