By DANNY MINTON
“After having dug to a depth of 10 feet last year, New York scientists found traces of copper wire dating back 100 years and concluded that their ancestors already had a telephone network more than 100 years ago.
Not to be outdone by the New Yorkers, an archaeologist dug to a depth of 20 feet in California in the weeks that followed. Shortly after, headlines in the LA Times newspaper read: ‘California archaeologists have found traces of 200-year-old copper wire and have concluded that their ancestors already had an advanced high-tech communications network a hundred years earlier than the New Yorkers.”
One week later, a local newspaper in Texas reported the following: After digging as deep as 30 feet in his pasture near Cut-n-Shoot, Montgomery County, Texas, Bubba Rathbone, a self-taught archaeologist, reported that he found absolutely nothing. Bubba has therefore concluded that 300 years ago, Texas had already gone wireless. Good ol’ Bubba!” (Source Unknown)
This little story may be funny, but it does have a lesson to teach us. Making assumptions without having good evidence leads to false information. Every day, people make assumptions based on incorrect information. False assumptions can lead to misunderstandings, arguments, and hurt feelings. Before we speak or react, we should always take the time to seek out the truth.
I usually have the habit of listening to people more than I do talking. I learn a lot more about people and life in general by taking the time to listen. Much of what I hear or read these days are comments or opinions supposedly based on facts but often include assumptions without evidence to back up what someone said.
For example, you drive around any town and see “Help Wanted” or “Now Hiring” signs in scores of windows. The comments then flow, questioning why all these people getting government help don’t get a job. People assume that people who receive government help are all just lazy and not wanting to work. Some may be, but to assume they all have this attitude remains unfounded.
A young boy falls asleep in class, and the teacher assumes he is just lazy. After all, his homework is usually late, and his grades are barely passing. If he’d try harder, he could do better. They assume he’s just not trying. What they don’t know may be that his mother is a single parent with three children, two young ones. The boy goes home after school and cares for his siblings so his mother can go to her night job. He doesn’t get to bed until midnight and is up early as his mother comes home to help again.
Even Jesus’ disciples fell in the assumption mode. Jesus and his disciples were walking in Jerusalem and spotted a blind beggar. The disciples assume he is a sinner or the product of sin and ask Jesus, “Who sinned, this man or his parents!” Jesus tells them their assumption is wrong since no one sinned to cause his blindness. Jesus uses him to teach a lesson on the greatness of God.
Assumptions are like a “connect the dot” puzzle. You go through the dots connecting number one to number two, number two to number three, number three to number four, and so forth. Then you come to number fifteen. You find numbers seventeen, nineteen, and twenty-one, but sixteen, eighteen, and twenty or missing. You want to finish the puzzle, so what do you do? Not knowing where the missing numbers are supposed to be, you draw where you assume they should be and move on with another and another guess. Maybe you’re close to being right, but on the other hand, you just connected dots without knowing the facts in between.
That’s the danger that assumptions have caused in people’s thinking today. Sharing only part of a story doesn’t give people the complete picture. Without those missing numbers or facts, the story can easily skew the facts in so many different ways. You fill in the blanks with your interpretation without actual knowledge.
The government does it, the media does it, churches do it, and we do it. Unfortunately, most of the time, the assumptions lean toward the negative, ending up doing more harm than good for the situation or individuals involved. Short but pointed, this little poem carries a powerful message.
A wise old owl lived in an oak,
The more he saw, the less he spoke
The less he spoke, the more he heard.
Why can’t we all be like that wise old bird? – unknown author
Each of us should learn to speak only the truth without assumptions. If you find yourself assuming something, at least seek out the facts before letting your take on the story be known. No harm is done if our assumptions are correct; however, a wrong assumption can be destructive.
One of my favorite Psalms is Psalm 15. The first two verses remind me of what God expects. “O LORD, who may abide in Your tent? Who may dwell on Your holy hill? He who walks with integrity, and works righteousness, And speaks truth in his heart. Psalm 15:1-2 (NASB)
Danny Minton is Pastoral Minister and Elder at Southern Hills Church of Christ