Most of us have heard the adage, “Don’t assume because it makes an ass out of u and me.” But do we realize the number and intensity of assumptions we are making throughout the day? “She was late for our meeting because she disrespects me.” “He didn’t finish his project on time to undermine my authority.” “She never tells me what is going on because she doesn’t care about me.” Unless someone tells us directly their motivation for their behavior, we can never know for sure. The result is our self-created assumed motivations can be a cause for further conflict and pain.
Ever notice when we are upset, we immediately blame another party? Why didn’t he consider me? Why does she have to be so rude? Why is he always disrespecting me by being late? It is so easy to find a reason to blame another party. They aren’t doing X or they always do Y to hurt me. But the truth is, their actions are not to blame for your pain and unhappiness, you are.
What someone else does or does not do is a fact, not a personal attack. Really. Even if somewhere in the other person’s psyche they are trying to hurt you, you have to accept being hurt. You need to interpret their actions as vindictive. You are the one in control of judging the situation and determining your experience of it. No one else. This is part of what I think Jesus meant by turning the other cheek. It is not to succumb to another’s anger or attack, but to see past it; to not add emotion to fact.
I have found two main motivations behind people’s actions: self-preservation and inherent nature.
Self-preservation appears in many different forms. Self-preservation may be fear of not being accepted and loved. Self-preservation may be fear of security – financial, job position, or social. If we look at an individual being frightened and insecure we can be compassionate toward them. The problem arises from the way self-preservation appears. It often takes the form of defensiveness, attack, judgment, and pride.
The other motivation for action is simply one of inherent nature. We are punctual or time doesn’t matter. We show love through gifts or through words. We are verbose or hardly talk. There is no one right or wrong way to be. Where assumptions get in the way is when we believe someone should act in a certain way; usually in the way we act or would prefer them to act.
Next time you feel someone is doing something to you, take a moment. Find the facts of the situation. Filter out your assumptions and emotions. See if you can’t make the situation better just because of the way you perceive it.