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Monday, October 22, 2012

What do our assumptions say about us?

I had a weird run-in at a store over the weekend. I was shopping with my daughter, and she'd gone to another rack to look at Halloween costumes. I went to join her, and I passed by two women. One of the women said something like, "which ones are on sale," or something similar, but I assumed she was talking to the other lady. When I reached my daughter, however, the lady raised her voice and started commenting about how young people these days are so rude and won't answer people when they speak to them and how they think they're better than everyone else.

Being slightly preoccupied with the fact that I was with a child who needed my attention, I wasn't fully aware of everything this lady was saying. She was very loudly going on and on about how rude people will get what's coming to them, and on and on. Because this lady was being so loud and obnoxious in her carrying on, I couldn't hear what my daughter wanted, so I finally took her by the hand, and moved away.

Which is when it hit me.

The woman was complaining about me.

I have to admit, it really bothered me that I had a stranger literally raining down curses on me because I didn't answer her question. I am not a rude person. I typically go out of my way to be polite, especially to strangers. But I'm also a very non-confrontational person, so I really didn't want to go talk to her. Even across the store, I could hear this woman loudly complain about young women who think they're better than everyone else. I've learned through painful experience not to engage crazy people, and based on the curses she was calling down, I was pretty sure that engaging was a bad idea.

As I shopped another section of the store (okay, I was really hiding from her so that I could go check out and not hear about what a horrible person I was for not answering her question- which would have been "I don't know, sorry."), I started to think about this woman. She didn't know me, and yet, she automatically assumed that my lack of response was that I thought I was better than her. In truth, I honestly thought she was speaking to another person (who was an elderly lady), AND, I was in a hurry to get to my daughter (who looked like she was about to make a mess).  I admit, maybe I should have gone to the lady when I realized that she felt slighted by me and said, "look, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to upset you," and then explained my side of things.

Which, of course, led to me analyzing why I cared so much that some strange lady in the store was cursing me. And when I say cursing, I don't mean saying bad words, I mean she was literally saying that I should be cursed for my actions. Because I know who I am in Christ, I know that another person's curses mean nothing. But it bothered me so much that I prayed for this lady as I waited for my daughter to try on her Halloween costume. That's when I realized that this woman's words said far more about her than they did about me.

I believe this woman is an unhappy person who sees a lot of negative in the world around her. Her first assumption about a stranger is negative. I tend to be negative in my assumptions, but in her shoes, I would have thought that the person I asked didn't hear me. So what would the life of someone more negative than I look like? Maybe I'm guilty of making wrong assumptions about her, but I felt sorry for her. That her assumption about me was that I thought I was better than her said a lot about how she saw herself. She must think that she's not worth a whole lot if her judgement of others is that they think they're better. And that made me sad. What made me more sad, though, was realizing that in such an assessment is a deep level of pride. Of wanting to be elevated just as high or higher than someone else. If she didn't want that, she wouldn't have needed to loudly proclaim her disapproval of a stranger. And in so proclaiming, she told the world that she thought she was better than me.

In judging, this woman became exactly what she was complaining about.

Which made me realize that so many of the things I complain about are often flaws in my own character. When I assume something negative about a person without talking to them to learn the truth, I'm merely reflecting the flaws in me. My own insecurities. My own fears. My own idols. I can assume a lot of things about people, but those assumptions are probably not very fair. And, as I struggled with being bothered by this woman's assumptions about me, I realized that I probably make negative assumptions about people more often than I should.

I wish I had an ending to this post, like, "this is what you should do to get over it," but you know what? I don't have that answer. I wish I knew how to be better at not assuming negative things- or even assuming at all. I do think that being aware, and recognizing that our assumptions aren't always true, is a good start.

What do your assumptions say about you?

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