Friday, November 18, 2011

I presume, therefore I stress

“Assumption: A thing that is accepted as true or as certain to happen, without proof.”

We make assumptions all the time; some are right and many are wrong. Businesses and governments routinely make assumptions for budgeting purposes. Businesses assume a certain market growth or decline and demand for their product. Sound companies, make fairly accurate assumptions, yet even sound companies err at times.

“Presumption: An idea that is taken to be true, and often used as the basis for other ideas, although it is not known for certain.”

When does an assumption become a ‘presumption’? Some may argue these terms are synonymous, but I believe there is a slight connotative difference. Our culture views presumptions more negatively than assumptions. A person may rebuke another person by saying, “That was awful presumptuous of you.” I believe we cross the line when we act on our assumptions or formulate other beliefs without verifying our assumptions.

In my experience, the majority of relational problems stem from presumption. An extreme example of this was illustrated in the 1994 film “Love Affair.” Mike Gambril and Terry McKay fall in love and agree to meet three months later on top of the Empire State Building to determine whether their love was genuine. In her haste to the Empire State building, Terry is hit by a car and crippled as a result. Mike waits on top of the building until midnight and finally assumes that she has rejected him. Terry, on the other hand, assumes that Mike would not love her as a paraplegic and thus refuses to make contact with him. A few months later, the two encounter each other at a play, but he does not realize her condition since she remains seated in her theatre seat, her wheel chair having been removed. Months pass as each of them base their actions off of erroneous assumptions. Finally, on Christmas Eve Mike decides to visit Terry and confirm whether his assumption about that night was true or not. Terry dodges the questions for a time, and just as he is about to leave, he figures out what happened and the two embrace.

I watched this movie some time ago, and I remember one of the things that frustrated me to no end in this movie is why wouldn’t Terry just tell what happened, and why didn’t Mike just come right out and ask what happened at the beginning. Their assumptions turned to presumptions and resulted in needless emotional pain and anguish that lasted for months. Why couldn’t they have just talked the day after and found out what happened? Well for one thing, it would have made for a very short and boring movie. But in the world of reality that we live in that would have been the far better choice. Adding tension, stress, and drama in real life isn’t what we long for.

Don’t allow assumptions to turn into presumptions and create needless emotional pain. The Bible even warns against presumptions. In James 4:13-15 we read, “Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” 14 Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15 Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” 
The Holy Bible : New International Version. electronic ed. Grand Rapids : Zondervan, 1996, c1984, S. Jas 4:13-15

As we should be wary of presuming upon our future, so should we be wary of presuming upon the motives of others. Before you assume the motive behind someone’s action and progress to anger, resentment, or bitterness, talk to the person. You’ll likely find out their motive was quite contrary to your assumption, and you’ll save both yourself and the other party from a boatload of grief and heartache. 

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