Saturday, January 25, 2014

Assumptions: The Doorway to Mediocrity, Low Morale and Cold War Mentality

ASSUMPTIONS; THE DOORWAY TO MEDIOCRITY, LOW MORALE AND COLD WAR MENTALITY I'll never forget an experience I had when I was 17 or 18 (that age when you think you know everything, and especially more than your father). I arose around 4:30 one Saturday morning to go duck hunting with my father and brother and some family friends. As I passed by my parents' bedroom, I noticed a Bible lying open on my father's side of the bed. I made a gleeful mental note. Later that day, after returning from the hunt, I mentioned to my nmother that I thought we might be making some spiritual headway with Dad. When she asked me what made me think so, I said that I had seen a Bible on Dad's side of the bed earlier in the morning. "It looks like Dad is starting to read the Bible, Mom. Isn't that great?" It was then that I learned one of the greatest single lessons in my sophomoric, self-centered, life. My mother turned and looked at me and said, "Son, your father has never shared this with you, probably because he has too much pride, or maybe too much humility. But he has been getting up at 4:30 every morning to read his Bible ever since I have known him." I was stunned. And suddenly I felt very small. I had asssumed (for whatever dumb, unaware reason) that my father needed "saving", like everyone else. Who else had I blindly and proudly assumed did not know God (as I had come to experience Him)? Who else had I stupidly "preached at" concerning my faith, thinking I was serving God, but was only pharisaically turning people off with my assumptions about their faith and struggles? The irony is that my Dad was the first one who shared the Gospel with me when I was 7 years old, as I sat on his lap at the piano, explaining to me the words of Handel's "Messiah". But later as I observed in him the usual moral lapses that any man experiences, I ASSUMED he was in need of salvation. Nothing could have been further from the truth. His faith was a tested and a ripe one, including experiences in the infantry in France and Germany during WW II. What does this have to do with "mediocrity and low morale"? Let's apply "assumptions" to the way Pete Scazarro, in his book "Emotionally Healthy Spirituality" puts it. We must "check out" our assumptions in our relationships, or else we will begin to imagine and project unreal emotions, attitudes and motivations upon our spouse, friends or co-workers. And we will find ourselves acting and reacting to things we assume are true, but aren't, necessarily. And when they don't respond as we expect them to, based on the assumption we have injected into the relationship, we become angry, hurt--even hostile--toward them, and they don't have the slightest clue as to why. They are left, then, to "assume" from their viewpoint, some assumed "reason" why we are acting hostile. They withdraw from one another. They no longer "suppport" one another. Instead, one may begin to compete, rather than act like a team mate. Or one may begin to sabotage the other, exclude the other, marginalize the other. All are ways to manage or control the other. One may assume the other is threatened by the other, so the other may back off and sabotage his own work so that the other might not feel so threatened, in a mis-guided attempt to restore harmony, or to avoid feeling hurt. All because an assumption was made, and the one making the assumption did not go and check it out directly in a mature and open expression of feelings. In a marriage, a spouse may begin to find reasons to stay away from home. At work, a co-worker may struggle with nausea at the prospect of going to work. If "so-and-so" is always there early, I will start going in later so that I won't have to see as much of him or her. Most people don't like to have frank expressions of feelings with the other. But this is usually where communication breaks down. It is worth the risk. It gives dignity to the other (one of our baptismal vows). St. Ignatius, in his advice on relationships, states first that if we are going to assume ANYTHING about the other, it should be our assumption that the other, even if they have harmed us in some way, intended good, and not evil. Assume that there was a misunderstanding. And then, as soon as possible, check it out. "When you did that, I felt slighted by you. It felt so out-of-character for our relationship, or how I have perceived it, that I had to assume there was a misunderstanding. Was I wrong?" You can see how this can bring some air and life and room and grace into a relationship that is threatened by the early stages of mistrust. Of course, it's nice when the other participates with honesty. But even if he or she doesn't, you have graced the relationship with a good assumption, and you have provided room for recovery. If he or she doesn't participate with you in this, at least you don't have to play games anymore, or escalate to a cold war, and the other can move within the environment of truth that you provide until some resolution either does, or does not, take place. At least YOU are free, even if he or she is not....YET. If he or she DOES participate with honesty, you have won back your husband, wife, friend or colleague. And you have strengthened trust between you. If you feel as though someone has made an assumption about you, take care to communicate directly. Don't let your fear of hearing what you might not want to hear stop you from doing this. Because if you don't communicate clearly, the other is only left to guess what's going on, and their assumptions will only grow into a crooked, tangled mess. Don't let assumptions cloud your home or your workplace. Communicate. Check them out. Bring them into the light. I read somewhere recently (I'm sorry I can't remember where) that the best cleansing agent for a relationship starting to go toxic is sunlight. As the "5th Dimension" sang, "Let the sunshine in." CH +

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