You’ve heard it said. “When you ‘assume’ you make a [donkey] out of you and me.”
In fact, I’ve taken to using the word ‘presume’ where ‘assume’ might otherwise be viable. Just to lessen the number of opportunities for people to say it to me.
While I presume they weren’t using that phrase in the Old Testament – they weren’t speaking English – did you know that assuming has been going on for thousands of years? Let me show you what REALLY happens when you assume.
All the men of fighting age from the 12 Israelite tribes were conquering the Promised Land, the families of the two and a half tribes who settled East of the Jordan River were … settling in.
After the general conquest of the Promised Land the soldiers from those tribes headed back to their new home, fresh from a final charge from Joshua that they should remember and observe all the laws of Moses – among them that all their religious sacrifices be done at the sanctuary, in the capital of the new country.
On their way back to their homes they stopped by the Jordan River to build an altar. Why? We’ll get to that in a minute.
As soon as the other nine and a half tribes heard about this altar – a large replica of the one in the Sanctuary – they immediately “assumed” it had been built in rebellion.
Nine and a half tribes took up weapons to go to war with their “brothers” (their literal cousins) because of something they assumed.
When they confronted the Eastern tribes they were told that the altar was built to remind to them to go to the sanctuary for their annual sacrifices; and to remind the rest of their national kin that the Eastern tribes were a part of the Israelite nation.
Why am I telling you this? Have you ever “assumed” something based on someone’s actions … without actually asking them for clarification? Did such an assumption lead to negative consequences for either party – or both?
In my experience, when we assume the worst very often – 75% of the time maybe? – our assumptions are wrong. Often very much so … not even close.
Should we let those assumptions lead to hurting a relationship? Or should we communicate … ask questions that clarify?
What happens when we assume? Usually things that aren’t good. What SHOULD happen when we assume? We SHOULD ask.
More likely than not we’ll see that the situation wasn’t at all what we thought … and not nearly as problematic.