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Photo by Jessica Thomas

© 2011, Kebba Buckley Button.  World Rights Reserved.

Do you ever catch yourself assuming something not in evidence?  Yesterday, I was going over some details of a column with a colleague I was going to quote.  I described the circular communion rail in Fr. Jim Clark’s church, assuming it had become circular during a recent massive remodel of the east end of the sanctuary.  Fr. Jim kindly brought me up to speed, letting me know that the circular design has been in place for many years.  I was only in the church, St. Barnabas Episcopal Church, once before the remodel, and that was for a funeral.  When I was there for the funeral, I was sad and crying and preoccupied with concern for the bereaved family.  My brain simply did not record the fact that there was a circular communion rail.  So, some years later, my brain simply made it up that the communion rail became circular during the remodel finished this year.  In this case, no harm done.

Occasionally, someone’s brain fills in blanks with assumptions about us, where there are no facts, or the facts are the opposite of the resulting assumptions.  In this kind of case, great harm can result.  One year, I went to a New Year’s Eve singles party with a group of single friends.  I drink very little, because alcohol makes me tired.  So I had only had 2 sips of champagne at midnight, enjoying the ritual of welcoming in the New Year.  Otherwise, I drank water all evening; we also danced for hours.  I felt great.  One friend got so drunk that at 12:15 am, the rest of us, all 6, walked her to her car and repeatedly offered, in different ways, to drive her home.  Oddly, the drunk friend kept inquiring if each of us was okay to drive.  In the course of our extended conversation, trying to convince her to let us drive her home, she turned her concern to me; I replied that, no, I was fine, I had had only had 2 sips of champagne.  The next day, I received a 6-minute voicemail from the previous night’s drunk friend, condemning me for drinking so heavily!  In serious and angry tones, her rant let me know how low a human I was.  She said if I wanted to abuse my body by drinking heavily and hurting my brain and liver, that was one thing.  However, she said- now in passionately angry tones- that if I wanted to drink heavily like that and then drive, that was another thing and inexcusable behavior!  I tried to talk with her, but she was completely committed to the idea that I was the drunk and dangerous one.  I gave up my friendship with her.  Several years later, she decided I had gotten over my Problem and let me know she had forgiven me!  I still avoid her.  Her assumptions consumed our relationship.

What do you believe about people and situations?  How much of your belief system about each friend or colleague is based on fact, and how much on imagination?  If you are disturbed by someone’s behavior, is your discomfort based on actual interaction?  Or is it based on your ideas about why they said and did what they said and did?  When you are frustrated by a situation, try writing down what you actually know, what you guess, and what came from rumors.  Eliminate the conjecture for a clearer picture, and try starting fresh.  Will you let assuming consume you?  It’s up to you.

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Reach the writer at kebba@kebba.com.

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