By John Stallings
“Never assume anything.”
We've all heard that sage piece of advice.
Let’s look at some definitions of the word assume;
“To draw conclusions on the basis of tiny scraps of evidence. To take for granted, without proof; to suppose as a fact, to take arbitrarily or tentatively; the act of anticipating something before hand - before the proper time & natural order.
“Jumping to conclusions” & “prejudging”-to me are as good as any definition.
Now, what does the word ASSUMICIDE mean? “Assumicide is when we make false assumptions about others, portraying them in the worst possible light, with the end being damage to if not destruction of a relationship.” "When your assumptions lead to dire consequences that could lead to your potential demise, you commit assumicide."
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve made hasty assumptions in my marriage, my parenting & even in my ministry. However I can tell you almost exactly how many times it’s been done to me. I’m quite good at remembering such things. Or should I say, I’m quite bad about it. I keep track of those things. It’s amazing how easy it is for me to assume someone has it in for me.
I was talking to a minister friend one time [a very successful pastor of a large church.] I drew all my deepest thinking together with perhaps as good a verbal flourish as I’ve ever had & said, -“You know, it’s easy to let your imagination run wild & think you hear something in a person’s voice or actions telling you they’re mad at you when nothing of the sort is really true.” My friends answer? -“Yes John, but what if it’s true & they really are mad at you?” I think my friends have been part of my problem. Kidding!
Everyone knows that sooner or later, friends we assumed would be ours for life will break their word, marriages end in divorce, children move away & never call us, the company lays us off, doctors can’t cure us, our investments disappear, our dreams are shattered, the best-layed plans go astray, other Christians disappoint us, & very often we disappoint ourselves. Our assumptions are proven wrong time & again & if sooner or later we don’t come to grips with this -we’re doomed to be unhappier tomorrow than we are today.
Dr. Jerome Frank at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore talks about Our assumptive world. His thought is that we all make certain assumptions about life. Deep down we believe that if we do certain things, others will treat us in a certain way. We assume that we have earned certain things out of life. If those assumptions aren’t met, we’re disappointed. There’s a strong correlation between good mental health & having assumptions that match reality. And there’s a high correlation between misplaced assumptions & a variety of emotional problems, including depression.
Put simply, we are disillusioned when things don’t go the way we assumed they were going to go. Wrong assumptions lead to disappointment & disappointment leads to despair. Are you still with me? Is a little light being punched in as to why we should—“Never assume anything?”
Have you ever seen a lady with a protruding stomach & blurted out, “oh, when’s your baby due,” & learned too late that she wasn’t expecting? I’ve done it several times in my life & I pray merciful God will never let me do it again.
Several years ago we saw a young lady whom we hadn’t seen in over two years. I should have realized that a baby isn’t the lone reason for a woman to have a bump in her mid-section, but nooooo. I forged ahead & “went off the proverbial cliff,” asking about due dates while Juda & the rest of the folk in the group stood in slack-jawed amazement.
The young woman’s ever reddening face & the throat clearing that seized the others present finally told me what I’d done. Then I added insult to injury by trying to back-peddle & explain my way out of it. This made it worse & finally my wife whispered, “quit digging, it’s getting worse & worse.” I survived but as I said, I pray I’ll never make that assumption again, especially when a young woman’s involved. It’s dangerous & ill-advised, you can take it from me.
There’s a true story from France. A woman was dining alone. She ordered some soup & while waiting for it to arrive she went to the restroom. When she came back she was horrified to find a man sitting in her seat & eating her soup. She didn’t know how to respond so she sat across from the man at the table & just stared daggers at him. He just stared back & kept eating. After he finished he ordered a main meal & asked for two plates. When it arrived he had one plate & gave the other one to the woman. They ate in confused silence. The woman then ordered coffee & went to the restroom again. When she came back, the man was gone….& so was her purse. She screamed out, “thief, thief.” Several people chased the man down the street & tackled him. They dragged him back to the restaurant & just as they did, the woman saw a table at the restaurant with no one sitting at it. It had a bowl of cold soup & you guessed it, there was her purse. It turned out that when she first came back from the restroom, she sat down at the wrong table.
Assumptions are dangerous.
Assumptions have a way of making the part of the horse that goes over the fence last out of you, me & everyone. Assumptions are the termites of relationships, & they erode the very fabric of trust & good will in a relationship. We should see our assumptions as our window to the world. If we scrub them off occasionally, it’s surprising how much more light will come in.
Assumptions. We make them all the time. Assumptions that cause us to judge & most of all misjudge people.
They didn’t call back so they must not want to talk to me.
The church is so unfriendly.
I think she’s trying to ignore me.
He’s such a hypocrite.
I don’t like him & I don’t know why, I just don’t like him.
I’ll bet they’re sleeping together.
They don’t hire people like me.
She’s so full of herself.
Someday he’ll find himself, & he’ll certainly be disappointed.
IT SEEMS WE’RE HARD-WIRED TO ASSUME SOME THINGS
When we’re watching a movie, I’ll try to figure out the plot of the movie & guess where it’s going & what’s going to happen to get there. This of course annoys my wife. As much as I love to try to figure it out, the best movies are the ones where I’m totally wrong.
I have long had a problem with thinking that every actor who is about six foot tall with dark hair is Henry Fonda. Juda tries to tell me it isn't Fonda but I won't listen. Sorry...it's Fonda!! Sometimes I'm wrong and John Wayne wins.
In writing this blog, I pray for guidance in the topics I write about. I always ask myself, “Do people need this information? Will this information help them?” Having been a pastor/evangelist for many years, I know people are interested in messages that will help them in their daily lives. Many times we can assume people have knowledge they don’t possess. I don’t know where I heard it but I like this little truism; “Never underestimate a congregation’s intelligence, but never overestimate their knowledge.” A pastor makes a false assumption if he preaches as if everyone in the congregation is a professing believer.
SAUL’S ASSUMPTIONS IN THE ANOINTING OF DAVID.
Saul was king of Israel for many years. You will remember that there was a time when Saul was waiting for Samuel to come to offer a sacrifice. When Samuel didn’t show up to offer his priestly duties, Saul took matters into his own hands & offered a sacrifice unto God.
Saul was unqualified to do so, & from that moment the kingdom was pronounced to be taken from him.
One thing I think every spiritual leader should be aware of is a principle we get from Baseball. If some of the ministers we’ve seen fall from grace in the last 25 years had understood this principle, I can’t help but think things would have been different. Here’s the principle; when a player, especially a pitcher, gets wobbly, the coach will go out to have a talk with him. If the player can convince the coach that he’s o.k., the coach will leave him in the game. But at that moment the coach will put his next best pitchers in the bull-pin & start warming them up. All the while the wobbly pitcher is proceeding; he hears the “warm-up” pitchers in the bull-pin. God wants to see us all succeed in our work for Him but we should always be keenly aware that if we fall or fail to do what he has called us to do; He’ll find someone else to fill our place.
Think back to the late 1980s. I won’t call names but you probably remember the big names in evangelism who “bit-the-dust” during a relatively short period of time. I must admit it had me beyond concerned. But look what happened. God raised up others who’d been “warming up” working faithfully & hitherto basically “second-stringers” who God quickly pressed into service.
In hearing God’s desire for the next king, Samuel heard he would be-a man after God’s own heart. He trusts the next man will be a tremendous step-up for the people. When you know God’s desired man is just around the corner & will soon be arriving, your sense of anticipation builds & abounds. Samuel probably starts to wonder what this new man is all about & how he’ll be different from Saul. I suspect that his mind would begin to fill in a few blanks & make a few assumptions of what this new king would look like.
In 1 Samuel 16 we find the story of Samuel being told by God to go to Jesse’s house & the next king of Israel would one of Jesse’s sons. Samuel assumes King Saul would find out & be angry. He assumes Saul will try to kill him. Samuel assumes that since Saul was tall, the next king would be tall too. However God doesn’t have a cut & dried way of doing things. Samuel also assumed that the “oldest son” rule would apply in this case so he feels Eliab, who was the oldest was the safest choice. Even though Samuel had walked with God for many years, on this occasion he seems to be as much in the dark as David was.
Samuel got the word from God that none of Jesse’s sons he’d seen so far is the one God wants him to anoint to be the next king. He asked Jesse if he had any other sons. Jesse said that he did have one more son but he was out keeping the sheep. When David was brought in sure enough he wasn’t very tall but he was a handsome dude. God spoke to Samuel letting him know this was the man & Samuel immediately anointed him to be the future king of Israel.
Isn’t it amazing how God so often chooses the foolish things of this world to confound the wise? Another amazing thing to me is how God can use the small moments of life, moments you & I may not even remember, to totally change the course of our lives.
I have three daughters who have families of their own, which makes me a grandpa. Isn’t that a brilliant deduction on my part? The other day I was talking on the phone to my eldest daughter & as an aside, she started telling me some ways I had been an inspiration to her as she grew up. I can’t even recall doing & saying many of the things she remembers that inspired her. I’m sure she was correct because the things she mentioned sounded a lot like me. My point is, if I were to be asked what I felt were my strongest points as a parent, I would no doubt come up with totally different things than my daughters remember.
Apparently I was inspiring in ways I never knew. To me they were such small things & small moments; I would never have placed them high on the list of my “parenting skills.” It will be the same for all of us. We just have to work as hard as we can doing what we feel is the right thing & leave all the rest to God. Such a moment was this moment in Samuel's life, when he poured the anointing oil over little David’s head. This fellow would someday be king over Israel in a reign that lasted 40 years.
God surprises us. Surprises are big with our God. Many times, God’s Will surprises us. He’s the God of interruptions & He’s the God of the unexpected. He looks at the heart while the rest of us are busy looking at outward appearances. He looks at motivations. If we assume anything, we should just assume that if hang around on this planet very long, God is going to surprise us.
WE CAN AVOID ASSUMICIDE
I had to smile a while back when I filled in for a dear pastor friend of mine who was called away unexpectedly. Over the years we’ve spoken at this church many times & the good folk know us well. As soon as one of the church ushers saw me come in, I heard him speak to another usher to be sure & get Brother Stallings a bottle of water & place it near the pulpit. Since we’d arrived a little early I stood around & talked with the brethren, telling them how much I appreciated their faithfulness to do things that might seem unimportant but in reality are very important.
One of the men said something to the effect that drinking water is one of the best things we can do for our health & we had a nearly fifteen minute conversation about drinking water.
I got to thinking about this & how these men assumed I was a person who drinks lots of water. The truth is, nothing could be further from the truth. I’m not a big consumer of water though I realize how good it is for us. As a rule I don’t drink nearly enough water. I don’t even like the taste [or lack of taste] of water. I do like water when it’s turned into tea or lemon aide, but that’s just me.
As I thought about it, I realized that the only time these men saw me was in church, & I use water when I speak or sing to combat the pesky “dry mouth.” I guess that must be for us “dry preachers.”
Now in this case, the case of drinking water, I guess I came off looking like a wise man for drinking lots of water. These men had assumed that I was a water drinker. But is that really true? Not hardly.
Some people who only see me at church might assume that I always wear a coat & tie, but those who see me on a day-to-day basis know that’s not the case. I hate ties. Friend we have to be careful not to jump to conclusions, make quick judgments & commit ASSUMICIDE when we don’t know all the facts.
The Jews during Jesus’ lifetime did just that in regards to Him. They were ready to arrest & condemn him in his early ministry. Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews who’d come to Him by night was a voice of reason in the council. He asked the august group of scholars-“Does our law judge a man before it hears him & knows what he’s doing? [John 7:51.]
How many married people commit assumicide every day & end their unions assuming things that aren’t true?
How many churches commit assumicide & are torn asunder because someone assumed they knew all there was to know about a situation?
A woman known for her incessant gossiping told the folks at church that she’d seen brother so-and-sos truck at sister so-and- sos house a lot lately & this was unequivocal proof that an affair was going on. The accused man heard about it so the next night he sneaked his truck in front of her house & left it there all night long.
How many former Christians are no longer walking with the Lord because they became bitter at something God “allowed to happen” & they committed spiritual assumicide over it?
Let us who name the name of Christ, not be too quick to judge & condemn others without knowing all the facts.
Here are a few more helpful hints;
Don't entertain 3rd party nonsense--Its true name is g-o-s-s-i-p!!
Don't react to what you think--react to what you k-n-o-w!!
Don't let issues linger. If you really want clarification-go directly to the person & ask!!
Jesus' main teaching thrust seems to be about shooting down many of our natural assumptions.
Look at The Sermon on the Mount. Everything we take for granted about success & power is turned on its head. Everything we assume about winners & losers is flip-flopped. When he speaks about Blessings, even if its about suffering He says ;
Congratulations to the restless,
Congratulations to the merciful rather than the powerful.
Congratulations to the pure in heart rather than the clever schemers.
Congratulations to the peacemakers instead of the fighters.
Jesus commends the unlikely ones & promises them mercy, comfort & the entire earth. You will be called the children of God & ultimately you'll see God.
Contrary to what this world assumes, when we suffer & think we can never get up again, we still have Him & we still have the Kingdom of God.