When I think about the times that I got something completely wrong, it was usually because I made a false assumption. 

I remember asking Tracy, a very skilled and faithful teacher of 3-year-olds, to lead an elementary discipleship program at our church. She was willing to try it and, after several weeks, came to me and said that it was not working out. I assumed that her teaching skills and love for preschoolers would equip her for the new assignment. What I learned was that God had created and gifted her in unique way that did not transfer at the same level with the older kids. Could Tracy have taught the program? Yes, but she would not have thrived in that area as she had with the 3-year-olds. 

When we gave our children battery jump starter boxes for their cars for Christmas, I assumed that they knew that they needed to be charged periodically. We learned last week that was a false assumption.

An assumption is a thing that is accepted as true or certain, without proof. When we are presumptive, we run the risk of misunderstanding. Assumptions often lead to communication breakdowns and can cause strain in our relationships. 

Think about the last time someone appeared rude as they waited on you. Think about the last time someone cut you off in traffic. We could assume that the clerk is just a rude person who shouldn’t work in customer service. We might assume that the driver is either a bad or rude driver. What if the clerk just received some bad news? What if the driver just didn’t see you or misjudged the distance? 

Just because someone has a reputation for a certain behavior or even has done something they regretted does not mean that is how they will always behave. It’s easy to see how assuming can lead to judgment.  

The Bible tells us that, “Fools base their thoughts on foolish assumptions, so their conclusions will be wicked madness; they chatter on and on. No one really knows what is going to happen; no one can predict the future.” (Ecc 10:13-14 NLT)

Assumptions can harm relationships. If we always assume we know a person’s motive or what they are thinking, we fail to listen, communicate and extend grace.

Why do we assume things? It may come from our culture or our families. We can take on the beliefs of our parents or others we surround ourselves with. It can also be a result of previous experiences, things we have heard, fear or even ignorance. 

Why do we assume the worst in others? Could it be superiority or pride that leads us there? Jumping to conclusions can actually reveal what is in our own heart. 

I heard a Christian leader speak about ‘filling the gap with grace’. He suggested that when we don’t know why someone acted in a particular way, we fill the gap of the unknown with grace. This can be a good approach with strangers because we never know what they’re dealing with. It is especially important to do so with our family, friends and co-workers. When something seems uncharacteristic, we should do what Jesus did with us and fill the gap with grace. Extend love and compassion. Reach out to them. Pray for them. 

Who am I, a flawed human being, to judge others? Did Jesus assume I would always be the person I used to be and give up on me? Never.

I pray that love will be our default and humility and grace will be our response of choice. I pray that we learn to be compassionate and love our neighbors as we love ourselves.

“Jesus answered, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. And the second command is like the first: Love your neighbor the same as you love yourself.’” (Matt 22:37,39 ERV)

Sylvia Gaston is Connections Pastor at Koinonia Church in Hanford, CA. She can be reached at sylvia@kchanford.com or 559-582-1528.