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In 1984, while living in Great Falls, Montana with my wife, Karen, and our sweet one-year-old, Kristin (actual house and child pictured), I wrote a letter to the local paper. Much to my surprise, it was published.
The piece confronted, probably with a defensive and immature tone, how Montanans viewed the Miller’s home state of New York.
I was attempting to counter the myth held by westerners that New York is a “concrete jungle.” In reality, New York is millions of acres of rolling hills, mountains, streams, lakes, forests, farms, and dairy cows.
For Upstate New Yorkers like Karen and me, “The Big Apple” does not define our home state.
Once published, though, I wondered if my letter might make some Great Falls’ locals none-too-pleased with me.
The next morning, I found out—or so I assumed. Overnight, someone had placed on our porch a homemade wire cage containing one …
… live rattlesnake!
At 25 and 23-years-old, we were anxious and angry.
Who would do this to us?
Why did they threaten us in this way?
Will they vandalize our property next?
Is baby Kristin at risk?
Do we need new locks?
Should we call the cops?
Why are people so vindictive, mean, and petty?!?
Yes, we asked a bunch of lousy questions! But then …
The Story Behind the Story
That evening, the phone rang. It was Roger, a thirtysomething dad and amiable guy I knew only through racquetball (a huge sport back then, just FYI).
Me: “Oh, hey, Rog. Sorry, I can’t play tonight. We’ve got a lot going on …”
Roger: “That’s okay … I was just calling to see if you liked my gift.”
Me: “Um, gift?”
Roger: “Yeah, the rattler I caught and put on your porch. I know you love reptiles and thought you’d want to see him.”
Me: “Oh.. well, yes—thanks, Rog! How kind of you to think of me!”
Assumptions. Not very productive, are they? They can lead to negative emotions, relational pain, and strife that NEVER need to happen.
How much better would our world be if we didn’t assume? Can you imagine thinking the BEST of people, not the worst? How would this change our political, societal, and social media cultures? What if we refrained from leaping to conclusions or making baseless judgments leading to unfair accusations?
Wouldn’t that be an outstanding way to live?
Bluntly, this is a JUST STOP moment. Just stop assuming. Learn to pause and ask questions to discover new information. Discipline yourself to not form opinions without facts.
There’s an axiom in counseling that goes like this: First we meet, then we treat.
How about first we meet, gain knowledge, and work to understand before we form conclusions?
In the end, I must accept PERSONAL ACCOUNTABILITY for the assumptions living within my mind. I must strive to identify, acknowledge, understand, and eliminate the assumptions that drive my thoughts, feelings, and actions.
Life will be so much better when I do.
So if personal growth is what you’re after—not to mention a better world—grab a mirror and get to work breaking the bad habit of making assumptions.
And, might I add, I assume you will!
What assumption did you make that you now regret?
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