I’d like you to think of someone who really gets under your skin. You know what they really are. You have mounds of evidence stacked against them. How could you ever view them differently? Hold that thought. Let’s compare.
In the movie The Sixth Sense (spoiler alert) the central character, played by Bruce Willis, is portrayed in a certain light: alive. In the end, it is revealed he actually died in the opening scene. The final moments quickly flash back scene by scene to show what was really going on. He had been present in spirit, not in body, unaware he had died. What seemed like a conversation between him and his wife, for instance, was actually his wife talking to herself, missing him. One assumption affected the entire story.
An assumption can color the way we interpret people too. Usually it’s directed at motive. We pass judgment, and then an entire narrative gets built upon it. We’re throughly convinced of the story because it is based on an eye-witness account: ours. Until we somehow can see the error in scene one, we see things not as they are, but as we are. Distrust is a lens between you and that person.
You’re fighting this, aren’t you? But consider: can we really discern motive? Strange how we give ourselves so much credit about what makes other people tick. Ever examined your own motives? Try it the next time you have a decision or conflict. See if you can figure out what’s driving you. At best you’ll discover a mixture.
The poet Coleridge said fiction requires “A willing suspension of disbelief.” Perhaps the same can be said of fact. Think again about the person who came to mind a minute ago. I wonder, what if you removed that one assumption? How might it change your view, even of past experiences? Your view of your boss, your spouse, God?
The poet King David understood how little he knew about himself. His famous prayer gives up the effort and looks to God to clarify and purify.
“Search me, God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.”