“For the record, I was wrong,” I told my teenage daughter Riley. We were talking about one of her friends who’d done something that seemed arrogant and self-promoting to me. But when I casually asked her friend about it in order to confirm my preconceived notions, he explained the sweet and sentimental reasons that motivated him, which were far from boastful. In that moment, my view changed completely, and I realized I’d once again let my assumptions cloud my judgment.
I wish this was the first time I’d ever been wrong about someone based on my initial assumptions, but that is simply not the case. I had a friend that I met at a kids’ activity gym when my oldest children were little. Based on our surface appearances, we were complete opposites. Her makeup was always flawless and her hair perfectly coiffed – a real life Barbie doll. I just knew we would have nothing in common. And I almost let that bias intimidate me and prevent me from getting to know her. I don’t know how it happened exactly, but we started talking and laughing – a lot. Every week, we would hang out while the kids played, and she and I had the best time. We don’t see each other often now because our lives have moved in different directions, but when we run into each other in a store, we hug and catch up. I think about what I would’ve missed if I’d let my misconceptions prevent me from getting to know her. I wonder who and what I’ve missed because I didn’t dig deeper to verify the accuracy of my perceptions about others and their actions.
I’ve heard it said that we can’t control the first thoughts that run through our heads, but we are responsible for the thoughts after that. Do we allow our first assumptions to stand unquestioned or are we open to challenging our original impulses? Jesus certainly questioned the authorities in power, but he also confronted his friends about their beliefs or lack thereof. Jesus and his disciples were on a boat when “suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him, saying, ‘Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!’ He replied, ‘You of little faith, why are you so afraid?’ Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.” Matt. 8:23-26.
The disciples were terrified and had every right to be, but Jesus wouldn’t let them remain in their initial state of fear. And isn’t fear why we often have the gut reactions that we do? We may fear not being good enough. Or we might fear people who seem different from us, and our automatic reaction often is to judge and find fault in order to feel better about ourselves. But God wants us to challenge our assumptions about people so that we move out of our states of fear and judgment. God expects us to grow and be open to learning more about others instead of staying stagnant and uninformed. Think of all we will miss if we don’t. Think of all of the beauty we may experience if we open our hearts and minds and share our lives with others. Let us pray for God’s guidance in breaking free of our small mindedness in the way we initially react and finding deeper love instead.