First of all, what’s wrong with jumping to conclusions? The conclusions we jump to are typically negative: she really does hate me; I’ll never get that job; I’m a terrible mother; I’ll never find a deal like this again….
In the story about my lost iPhone, I jumped to the conclusion that someone had absconded with my phone and I would encounter some nefarious characters if I tried to retrieve it. I was wrong. SO wrong.
Let me take you back few years (almost 40 actually). When I unwrapped my wedding gifts, my cousin Joan’s gift was in a heavily taped box. The picture on the box was of a hibachi barbecue. It would have been perfect for our lakeside honeymoon…but we forgot to bring it along.
Weeks later, I wrote in Joan’s thank you card: Thank you for the hibachi. We love it! It came in handy on our honeymoon at the lake.
I lied, thinking, she’ll feel so happy knowing we really appreciated and used her gift!
Yes, I felt guilty for the lie. I rationalized–it’s not like I told the Nazis where I had hidden the Jews or sent my neighbour to the gulag for the photo of Stalin on his dartboard!
Let it go, I told myself. But I couldn’t.
The hibachi box, unopened, sat on a shelf in the store room until the following summer when I decided to surprise my husband with some grilled steaks for supper!
Taking the box down from the shelf, I lugged it out to the kitchen, heaved it onto the countertop and fetched a paring knife to cut open the packing tape. After slitting a generous amount of tape–Joan must have added some extra security, how thoughtful–I reached inside and pulled out…a cheeseboard.
My sins had found me out! (Numbers 32:23 be sure your sin will catch up with you.)
I jumped to a conclusion with a leap that rivalled anything Evel Kneivel had done: Joan thinks I am a liar, undeserving of forgiveness, love or friendship. So I avoided Joan for the next 15 years. Yes, years, not days, not weeks, not months. YEARS. (We have a huge family and Joan didn’t have time to miss me.)
Finally, after becoming friends with Joan’s daughter-in-law who lived nearby (and being unable to avoid her any more) I sent Joan a second note confessing my sin and begging forgiveness. I was humiliated and ashamed.
Not long after, Joan came to town to visit her son’s family and I was invited over. I couldn’t live with the weight of guilt any longer so I hugged Joan and shakily asked if she had gotten my letter…you know…about the hibachi…. (nervous cough). She threw her head back and laughed.
Bwahahahaha….! You Cavanaugh girls have such a great sense of humour! I knew you were kidding when I got the thank you card.
I had been afraid to see my cousin Joan for 15 years and the whole time she thought I was kidding. GOOD GRIEF CHARLIE BROWN!
The Joan debacle changed my thinking and my behaviour in the ensuing two decades. May I humbly put forth Three Ways to Avoid Jumping to Conclusions:
- Assess the history: If you have transgressed against someone (you da bad guy) or you feel wounded by someone (he da bad guy), think back to the typical dealings in your relationship thus far. Have they been mostly good? Is he/she a person of good will? If your history with the other party has been positive then chances are, this is a misunderstanding.
- Ask yourself, am I missing something? A friend of mine was wounded by a workplace conversation wherein the other party was forthright to the point of being terse. What my friend didn’t know was that she spoke that way to everyone. Her style was direct and businesslike but her work was professional and she was warm and engaging once you got to know her. This was my friend’s first direct dealings with this colleague.
- Act on it. Or not. But let it go. In the Joan story, the obvious fix should not have waited 15 years. If you have assessed the history, discovered some missing information and still are uneasy about your situation, you should go directly to the other party and either confess your guilt and ask them to forgive you or share your hurt and ask them to explain. In most cases, the air will be cleared and you can both move on. There are also times when you’ve assessed the history, discovered some missing pieces and realized you jumped to the wrong conclusion. You can let it go and move on without acting on it. That’s what my friend did. She never confronted her coworker and they have developed a strong working relationship.
If you do all of the above, with an awareness that you are a flawed but forgiven child of God who depends on His grace for every good thing in your life, chances are the outcome will satisfy. If not, don’t blame me, I have post-traumatic-Joan-syndrome and I’m not responsible.