Updated: May 5
I was a very insecure 14-year-old girl.
Growing up I was always enrolled in very small schools. To give you an idea of just how small they were, my 8th-grade graduation had two people in it... including myself. As I entered into my academy years, I was suddenly thrown into a very different environment. I was now surrounded by nearly 400 other students my age. I had no idea how to handle such a major transition! Everyone at my new school dressed differently, talked differently, and had different interests than what I had grown up with. I felt like an outcast.
It was around this time that I developed the habit of assuming the worst. I did this as a sort of protection plan. I told myself that if I assumed the worst, nothing would surprise me. Nothing would hurt me because I could already "see it coming". When I walked down the hallway of my school and someone behind me giggled, my face would flush red. Surely they were laughing at me! Looking back, I can see how ridiculous that assumption was yet at the time those kinds of worries consumed my thoughts. I assumed I would fail a test, I assumed I wouldn't like the cafeteria food, I assumed that I wouldn't make the volleyball team. Each of these assumptions started to hold me back.
As an adult, I find myself still wrestling with some of my teenage struggles. I hear stories and I see things that cause me to be afraid. I allow those fears to dictate my expectations. To be completely honest, I think assuming is something we all do. I am not sure any of us could ever reach a place where we don't assume anything at all. Instead, I am advocating that we allow our assumptions to be positive rather than negative. I think this is especially valuable when it comes to working in ministry or being involved in a church family.
It is time for us to ask ourselves, "Is that fact or fiction?" Do I really know something because it is true or because I am going off of a misguided emotion? Does that person really dislike me or did I misread their sadness for disgust? My husband is very good at keeping me humble. He reminds me that the world doesn't care about me nearly as much as I assume they do. What I mean is, when I make a mistake or feel embarrassed the chances of the people around me caring as much as I care are unlikely. I read a quote yesterday that said, "Your most humiliating moment in life is someone else's momentary entertainment." People are better at forgetting than we realize. It is okay to let go of our worries and our past suppositions.
Here is a small exercise I have started to do and if you are brave enough you can try it as well. When I am out in public I go out of my way to compliment or thank the people around me. I purposely take note of the people I usually avoid or feel turned off by. For example, if I see a lady behind me in the grocery store who looks downright bitter and grumpy, I find something nice to say to her. "Ma'am I just wanted to tell you I love your shirt, it's really pretty!" The change in demeanor that comes from a compliment is priceless as the lady stammers to thank me and even offers a smile. Or maybe I have just dashed into a public restroom and I see the janitor cleaning up a truly disgusting mess. "Hey thank you so much for taking care of that. It is really nice to use a bathroom that is so well kept." That sort of comment is so different from what janitors usually have said to them.
Of course, I don't approach everyone I see in public. God gave me discernment for a reason and as a young woman, I do unfortunately have to take more safety precautions than some people. My point is, I think most people are caring. I think most people want to do the right thing. Sure at times we become misguided and our own selfish desires get in the way, but ultimately I see more good in people than I used to. The world needs more kindness. People are looking for a friend, a word of encouragement, and loving affirmation.
Sometimes as Christians we take on the role of a martyr before it is necessary. We hear stories and see things that make us feel like outcasts. We limit our witnessing or our involvement in church because we are afraid. We are afraid of being labeled or rejected. We allow our assumptions to keep us from God's blessings. We allow our assumptions to keep us from blessing others. But God does not give us a spirit of fear. This Monday morning (or whenever you are reading this!) I want to leave some encouraging words with you:
Joshua 1:9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.
John 16:33 I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.
Romans 15:2 Each of us should please our neighbors for their good, to build them up.
Matthew 6:25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?
1 Peter 5:7 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.