The Power of Assuming the Best About People
One of the biggest things God has been teaching me this year is simply to “Assume the Best”. As a single lady it’s so easy to get hurt by the words people say. In an attempt to be encouraging people often end up hurling thinly veiled insults at us from all sides. Unfortunately, I feel like one of the most common places this happens is in the church environment.
Some of the most hurtful statements ever spoken to me about singleness have come from the mouths of Christian women. I hope that this has not been your experience, but I fear for some of you this rings all too true.
Picture this with me. You joined a women’s Bible study, you’re the only single girl there, but you have continued to come every week even though you feel totally out of place. One week you decide to be vulnerable and share your heart. You tell the other ladies that being single is killing you, that you’re so lonely sometimes you can hardly stand it and that you really are not sure how much longer you can keep trusting God’s timing in your life. You then ask the other ladies for encouragement and prayer.
Instead of prayers or encouragement, what you receive is everyone’s tales of marital and motherhood woes. They tell you to appreciate the alone time, that one day you’ll wish you were single again, that you’re so lucky to have freedom and extra time, that at least you don't have all the responsibilities that wives and mothers do. None of this seems at all helpful in your current crisis.
Now you are faced with two choices, become bitter or assume the best.
I honestly can’t blame you if becoming bitter seems like the better option. I’m sure you’ve spent weeks in this group listening while Janet asked everyone to pray because her husband would be out town for one night on business and she doesn’t sleep well when she’s alone and while Nancy asked everyone to pray for her 20 year old daughter whose boyfriend hasn’t proposed yet, and you’ve done all this without rolling your eyes, scoffing or telling any of them to toughen up and find their big girl panties. You've graciously extended kindness to them, even though their "trials" sound a lot like your everyday life.
It’s so hard when no one seems to understand what you are saying or take your struggles seriously. It's difficult to constantly be told by women who got married at 21 that marriage and motherhood is much harder than singleness. Do they even know what extended singleness is like?
I think many women in the Christian community just don’t know what to say to single women. They think they are being encouraging, when really they are just twisting knives into your already wounded soul. In these situations you must assume the best. Assume that these women want to help, but simply don’t know what to say or how to help you. Assume that they understand there isn’t a one size fits all solution so they’re struggling to find something helpful to say. Assume that these are women who are striving to be more like Christ and would never say anything intentionally hurtful.
Assuming the best isn’t always easy, but it is worth it. If you take every misplaced comment personally and become offended by everyone, you will only distance yourself from other believers and make your loneliness more palpable. If you choose to become bitter, communication and reconciliation becomes more difficult. Not impossible, but more uncomfortable, because bitterness drives an invisible wedge between you and someone else. When you assume the best about someone’s intentions, it keeps lines of communication open. You won’t be distancing yourself from the body of Christ, but rather understanding that people are human, and that everyone makes mistakes and at times doesn’t deliver advice as eloquently as they had planned to.
I think most people mean well when they try to offer you advice on being single. No one is trying to intentionally hurt your feelings.
Assuming the best doesn’t only apply to people giving you unsolicited advice about singleness. It really applies to anyone. Obviously, if a person has a history of being hurtful or cruel to you, then it wouldn’t be wise to continue to assume the best, but for the most part the people you interact with on a regular basis are not on a mission to harm you.
I think it is especially helpful to assume the best when dealing with family. There’s so much history and emotion in family relationships that it’s easy for things to get misconstrued.
Am I the only one whose mother has a habit of sending me little notes that often come off a bit passive aggressive? Or a well-meaning aunt who always greets me with the question, "Have you met a guy yet?". It’s always my initial sinful instinct to be mad and to tell myself they're judging me. If I take a step back and assume the best, I usually can see that they were just trying to be helpful and maybe didn’t pick the best words.
Assuming the best doesn’t mean you let people walk all over you. If someone has a habit of speaking to you in a way that you find hurtful, absolutely speak up! Tell them how their words have made you feel, but speak to them knowing that they never intended to hurt you. I recently told my mother about some things she had said that really cut me deeply. After talking with her it became clear that I had infused her words with meaning that simply wasn’t there. She had never intended to upset me. If we approach these types of situations with an attitude of bitterness and blame, healing conversations can’t happen.
Now this doesn’t apply to everyone. When there’s a guy on Tinder who doesn’t show his face in any of his pictures and says he has to be discreet because of his job, do not assume the best. I repeat DO NOT assume the best! He’s lying to you! Assume he’s married and save yourself some drama! You still have to use common sense here!
Hopefully your new mantra of “Assume the Best”, will help you keep your cool the next time someone tries to encourage you by saying, “You’ll find the one when you quit looking!” (Insert eye roll here).