I can visualize just where I was sitting in the dimly lit bedroom of our rent house, 16 years ago, where we housed our ministry's home office. I sat through much of that phone conversation with a dear friend, alternating between picking up my jaw from the dropped position and dabbing my face from the tears slowly streaming down my face. It's funny how a single conversation can change the course of relationship, and yet, many years later, you can't truly recall its content.
In bullet form, my takeaways from that afternoon's fatal blow to a friendship I treasured were as follows:
She had young children. I had none.
While we had considered ourselves to be the best of friends, she had been feeling that my expectations for perfection in our friendship were far too weighty and unattainable.
I expected her children to be perfect. They were not, and she didn't want them to be either.
My husband and I wanted to go out for dinner with them as a couple, but they knew we were embarrassed to be with their misbehaving toddlers.
They had opened their home to us but it was obviously not enough to keep our friendship going.
The truth is, we had never had a conversation, in my memory, that delineated any of the above "wrongs". And even when I spoke to them, trying to diffuse each hurtful misconception, my explanations fell on deaf ears. Things were too far gone, it seemed. And what was all the more hurtful was that, even if those things had been felt, the truth of what I believed she knew about me was seemingly never weighed into the equation. Even as well as I thought we knew each other, this dear girl assumed I would feel these things about her precious family, thoughts that never had even crossed my mind.
As we wrap up our current blog series, Grace Givers, I would like to propose that the majority of emotional injuries and misunderstandings come as the byproduct of wrong assumptions. All of us can jump to conclusions now and again but, as a general rule, women are some of the worst. We assume the worst all too often when we could actually avoid hurt and pain by assuming the best.
Quite frankly, the worst habits of assumption come through the filter of our own feelings, struggles, insecurities, or trials at the moment. Because we might be feeling stressed or neglected, we assume someone is intentionally adding to that.
"She didn't return my phone call/text." (pause) "She must be too busy to even care about me at all."
"Look at their vacation photos." (pause) "It must be nice to pastor a church that size. We will never be able to do something like that."
"Her social media posts are filled with updates on their ministry." (pause) "She obviously thinks she's better than the rest of us."
...in order to not assume the worst, we will have to intentionally assume the best.
There is plenty to be said on this subject, and I'm afraid if I get too specific, we will all find a way to make excuses for our own habits, no matter how harmless or innocent they may be. The truth is, I don't believe most people intentionally assume the worst. But the greater truth is, in order to not assume the worst, we will have to intentionally assume the best.
Assume the best about her. You'd want her to do the same for you.
I'm a huge fan of the Golden Rule. Sure, we are all gonna slip up now and again. But if we want others to believe the best about us, we have to be willing to step over our own insecurities concerning others--their successes, their failures, their highs, their lows, their family, their ministries, their motives--and believe the best! I would love to tell you I'm flawless at this. But if I were, I wouldn't hold much influence in speaking to it. I have my moments, believe me.
In my experience, social media makes this "assume the best" principle all the more difficult. Oh, great. She's gonna bash social media. I'm a fan of social media, for the most part. But it has definitely amped up the comparison game. And don't you hate it when you have sent a private message or text to someone and you can see that they've seen it? Then the mind games start.
Day One: Why won't she reply? I hope everything is okay.
Day Two: Hmmm...that's weird. I can't recall us having any type of altercation recently.
Day Three: I hope everything is okay.
Day Four: Maybe I should check on her again. Is that being too pushy?
Day Five: I saw her posting the highlight reel with her kids. Ya know, it would only take five seconds to reply to me.
Day Six: Seriously, over this.
Day Seven: Sigh. Guess we aren't friends anymore.
As we close out this focus on giving grace, let's add the goal of assuming the best to the list of grace-giving. The Hebrew root for the word 'grace' literally means 'favor'. It is CHEN from a root word CHANAN, meaning "to bend or stoop in kindness to another as a superior to an inferior". In Greek it is CHARIS and has the idea of graciousness in manner or action. It comes from a root word CHAIRO, which means "to be cheerful, happy".*
Don't you think this world could use a little more 'cheerful and happy'? There is nothing more lady-like and classy than granting favor and kindness to another as superior to an inferior. And according to the principles of God's Word, when we grant grace, we reap grace in return. I don't know about you but there are some days when I am desperately in need of grace from another when I miss the mark. Come on, let's give a little grace together.
Assuming the Best is Entry FOUR in May 2019's blog series, Grace Givers. What does grace mean to you? Share in the conversation below.
Bridgette Tomlin, founder of Sanctuary, and her husband, Chresten, have been married and in full-time ministry for 21 years. 20 of the 21 years have been spent in evangelistic work, both stateside and overseas. The couple has two beautiful blonde babies--ages 14 and 9--and base out of Tulsa, Oklahoma. Like many ministry wives Bridgette often feels like a red flag on the tug-of-war rope with the children on one end and her husband and the ministry on the other end! When she finds time for personal hobbies, Bridgette enjoys entertaining, blogging, singing, browsing the local antique shops, and sipping on a cup of hot tea for a few precious quiet moments. Her heart is to lead others to the authentic presence of God--through worship, through Word, and through one-on-one connection.