Assume: To accept as true without proof
We all do it. We hear someone say something, and we fill in the blanks as to what the statement means, even though the additional words were not spoken. Or we observe someone do something, and we immediately think we know the reason why, perhaps based on our knowledge of the person or perhaps based on reasons why other people have done the same thing.
Sometimes our assumptions are correct. The better we know a person, the higher our success percentage will be for accurately determining the person’s meaning or motivation for certain words or actions. (My wife is right about me so often that she says, “I know you better than you know yourself.”)
However, assumptions made about other people are very often incorrect. And when we take further action or start feeling a certain way based on these assumptions, huge problems can result.
In Mosiah 7, King Mosiah sends out a search party led by a man named Ammon to locate a group of Nephites who had not been heard from in many years. As the group nears the walls of the city where the missing people are thought to be, the king of this city, a man named Limhi, is outside the city walls taking a walk. Assuming that Ammon and his group are approaching as a threat to the king, Limhi’s guards capture them and put them in prison.
The normal way of dealing with people threatening the king was to put them to death. However, Limhi decides to question them instead to determine why they were “so bold as to come near the walls of the city” while he was outside the gate. When Ammon explains who his group is and who they are looking for, Limhi rejoices — his people are exactly who Ammon’s team has been looking for! Further, Limhi’s people are in bondage, and he recognizes that the arrival of this team is God’s way of delivering them from their predicament.
Imagine how differently the story would have gone if Limhi had just put Ammon’s team to death as normal procedure dictated. When we “shoot first and ask questions later,” we may take the wrong action — perhaps disastrous action — and it may not be able to be undone, even if we later find out that our assumptions were incorrect.
How can we avoid making incorrect assumptions about another person that will cause problems in our lives?
- The primary way is to talk to the person involved. Ask questions (as Limhi did). This will allow you to better understand the true motivation or meaning behind what was said or done. This is one of the reasons why the first step of the “law of offense” is to talk to the person who has offended you. Quite often, you will discover that the offense was based on a false assumption.
- Don’t automatically assume that a person is doing something for the same reason that you (or someone else) would. Every person is an individual and has different motivations and influences.
- If you must make assumptions, then try your best to attribute a good/positive reason for what has occurred (a.k.a. giving the person the benefit of the doubt). If you later learn that this assumption is incorrect, then you can take the necessary action at that time.
Jesus said, “The truth shall make you free.” When we know the truth, we are free to act in the appropriate way. When we don’t know the truth, we are guessing and will often take inappropriate actions. This is what happens when we assume.
This article has undergone ministry review and approval.