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March 30, 2007

“Do you know what people are most afraid of? What they don’t understand. When we don’t understand we turn to our assumptions.” William Forrester in the movie Finding Forrester

What do you do when you don’t understand something? There are three typical responses: ask questions, avoid the issue, jump to conclusions/make assumptions. Too often I believe we go to the last two responses instead of the first one. To ask questions means we have to admit we don’t know or understand. It shows that we have a need for others. Our human nature drives us to want to look good in others eyes, to be successful, to have control, and to be independent. Often we don’t want to go to the work to question, seek information, investigate, learn, etc.

I have spent years pursuing my own education, and I spent 10 years working in public education. I firmly believe in life long learning and believe that God has created us to be here to learn, yet I still find myself jumping to conclusions and making assumptions so easily. This is especially true in my interactions with other people because I want to lump people into boxes and claim I understand them, yet each of us has been created uniquely and our past experiences shape us in different ways. If I really admit why I make the assumptions it is often because I am afraid of them or something interacting with them might reveal about me. My assumptions protect me from really getting involved and taking a risk.

I have been challenged recently to think more about how I can take the time to really get to know others, how I can listen and learn more, and how I can stop making assumptions. Part of this challenge came when someone I viewed as happy and comfortable in a social situation we are involved in together revealed to me their views and struggles in that environment. The next time the phone rings, there is a knock on your door, someone walks by your desk, or you leave your house and see someone…you might ask yourself what assumptions you are making about that person. Then take a look and ask why you are making those assumptions. Are you making assumptions because you are afraid? Are you willing to show someone else who you are, and find out about who they really are? Are you hiding behind your assumptions, or are you willing to risk and reveal that you don’t understand?

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