The Woes of Wrong Assumptions

The Woes of Wrong Assumptions - Grace Fox

Our conversation continued on a congenial note for a few minutes, and then we hung up. Two weeks later the same woman sent me an email.

Have you ever experienced a relationship conflict as a result of wrong assumptions? I have. I’m in the middle of one right now.

It all started during a phone conversation last month. The woman who called told me about her adult son’s poor eating habits. I listened and then told her about my husband’s mealtime habits during his college years.

“Gene claimed he had a balanced diet,” I said. “One dinner consisted solely of baked potatoes. The next day he ate corn. On the third day, he ate a pork chop. By the end of the week, he’d eaten something from each food group. Voila—a balanced diet.”

Our conversation continued on a congenial note for a few minutes, and then we hung up. Two weeks later the same woman sent me an email. My words about Gene’s so-called balanced diet had offended her. She questioned my intention for speaking them. She assumed that I was (1) trying to change the subject, diverting her attention to something other than her son’s issues or (2) making light of her concern for his well-being.

The woman’s assumption floored me. I emailed back, explaining that I meant neither; I simply told a story. As of yet, she hasn’t responded, and I’m left in a quandry.

Negative assumptions are deadly for relationships

What causes us to form them? I believe we jump to wrong assumptions for several reasons:

  • We fail to listen well and thus miss important information necessary to form an accurate conclusion.
  • We’re insecure and therefore misjudge other people’s motives toward us.
  • We’re overtired or overstressed and therefore unable to connect the dots properly.

I suspect insecurity as the culprit for the woman’s wrong assumptions in this situation. As I ponder what to do, I find encouragement in knowing that others have dealt with wrongful assumptions, too. Take Joseph, for instance.

Wrong assumptions about Joseph’s character

Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery when he was a teenager. A couple of decades later, they were stunned to learn he was Egypt’s second-in-command and their welfare rested solely on him. For years he treated them very well. But when their father died and was buried, they became fearful.

“Now Joseph will show his anger and pay us back for all the wrong we did to him,” they said (Genesis 50:15).

Did you catch that wrong assumption? Joseph is going to do us harm now that Dad’s gone. Nothing was further from the truth. Their guilty conscience skewed their reasoning. They assumed the worst about Joseph’s character, trembled with fear, begged for mercy and forgiveness, and offered themselves as their brother’s slaves. Imagine the mental and emotional energy wasted, all due to wrong assumptions.

How did Joseph respond?

With sorrow and kindness. Sorrow because his brothers doubted his character even after all the goodness he’d shown them. Kindness because he loved them.

I can relate to his feelings somewhat. At this time, I feel sorrow because this woman doubts my intentions and ultimately my character. As time passes and I figure out what to do, I pray that my response will be marked by understanding and kindness.

How about you?

Have you ever been the target of wrong assumptions?

If so, what insights can you share with the rest of us?

Know you are loved,


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  1. I think it’s quite common to make wrong assumptions, because we all bring preconceived notions to the table, whether we are aware of them or not. The problem comes when we don’t address them immediately (speaking of myself here, too!). Instead of walking away with faulty thinking , we could choose to discuss and clarify at that moment. I think that would alleviate a lot of hurt feelings. It does take a little bit of courage to do that, though.

    1. You’re right about having preconceived notions. And about clarifying things immediately. Why waste negative energy if we can clear up a potential misunderstanding asap?

    2. Maybe a good way to address it could be by asking, “Could you help me understand something?” A spirit of humility helps, too.

  2. This situation reminds me about a Colors Personality course I attended this month. The “Blues” are sensitive, but as with anything – if they overdone or unpolished by the maturing process and by the Holy Spirit in the case of believers, they can become a weakness. Assuming is SO easy to do, and we assume our “filters” – our default perspectives and interpretations – are the correct ones.

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