Negative Assumptions In The Head, Now What?

“Memes Aren’t Facts—And YouTube Isn’t Research” reads a subtitle in an article on responding to distressed Christians whose opinions stem from unsubstantiated sources. Memes and YouTube, while open to all, follow no rigorous filtering or moral standards of information. Anyone can publish anything, on anyone, anywhere, at anytime. It’s that easy.

While we know better than to use memes and YouTube when it comes to our relationships with family and friends, we all have a similar source built inside ourselves—assumptions. And though good assumptions are helpful, it’s the false assumptions that poison our relationships and lives. I recently read an article on “assumicide” by a Christian pastor named Ray Pritchard. According to him, “assumicide” is “what happens when you make false assumptions about others so that you can portray them in the worst possible light. It leads to the death of relationships because we end up believing the worst about others.”

I know exactly what he means. Especially during this pandemic, my thoughts and assumptions of others (in lieu of seeing them, talking face to face, and spending time together) have sometimes taken off and formed their own kingdom in my head. I questioned others’ love for me. I catalogued harshly their seeming lack of encouragement and support for me. I analyzed someone else’s silence, or look, or one word, and concluded they have little regard for me. I did plenty of sizing people up, confident I had them all figured out. I played god—daring to know their thoughts and true opinions of me. While not all assuming is bad, it’s the assuming badly about anyone, (and even about ourselves), that uncovers a gospel issue in our core. The way we think about others says more about our theology than we’d like to admit.

According to the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, assume means “to think that something is true or probably true without knowing that it is true.” To better understand the definition of assume, the same dictionary contrasts it with a similar word, presume, but points out one main difference:

Assume and presume both mean “to take something for granted” or “to take something as true,” but the words differ in the degree of confidence the person assuming or presuming has. Presume is used when someone is making an informed guess based on reasonable evidence. Assume is used when the guess is based on little or no evidence. (Merriam-Webster)

The degree of evidence one has about someone matters, especially when about to engage in thinking badly about that person. Perhaps we never really give much thought to our thoughts when we assume negatively about those around us. After all, it is just a feeling we have at first. Then a thought feeding on that feeling. And a whole action of assuming and casting judgment may follow it all. And yet, even secular dictionaries reveal how shallow and evidence-less such assumptions are. Denigrating our neighbor is a serious action. Evidence is of a prime importance in any court of judgment. That’s why, when negative assumptions come our way, is good to ask ourselves, “What evidence do I have to substantiate my assumptions?” Negative assumptions about our friends and family made primarily on little or no evidence remain unfounded and untrue no matter how much we may want to believe otherwise.

Not only are negative assumptions based on little to no evidence, they also take what is negative and make it as if it were true. Elevating false narratives to the standard of truth is what Satan is best known for. No one perfects thinking evil about everyone better than the devil himself. He writes negative commentaries and provides us with his material free of charge. He knows too well what God’s biblical frame is on how Christians should think of others. The devil knows Philippians 2:3, perhaps better than most. “Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourself” (NLT). The trap of thinking badly of others is being too preoccupied with thinking greatly with our selves. What happens when Christians actually esteem others better than self? Bible commentator David Guzik puts it so well, “If I consider you above me and you consider me above you, then a marvelous thing happens: we have a community where everyone is looked up to and no one is looked down on.” Gospel communities where everyone is esteeming everyone are communities where individual Christians spend less time focused on self and more time thinking well of others in Christ. Esteeming others higher in our thoughts draws us away from self, and keeps us centered on the gospel. For only through the power of the Spirit and the living words of God can each one of us die to self and lift the others up.

If you are like me, and struggle with negative assumptions, learn the habit of scrutinizing them carefully and consistently through the biblical grid. Take into account the (very little) amount of evidence these assumptions tend to be based on. Ask yourself if they are true, trustworthy, right, pure, biblically filtered, approved by God, and stirred up from a heart of love, peace, and unity. Moreover, be aware of the devil’s shady defamations he so eagerly wants you to embrace about your brothers and sisters in Christ. Learn his tactics of separation, anger, bitterness, and self-centeredness. Resist him and all his twisted narratives.

At the end of the day, the gospel issue at the heart of “assumicide” is not what we assume, but how we assume it all. Whose model do we follow in thinking and esteeming others well? Are we allowing the rich truths of Jesus to shape our assumptions, or will we follow shady and negative serpentine narratives?