How does the old saying go? “Never assume; it only makes an ASS out of U and ME.” Assumptions, pigeon-holing, prejudice, always, and never. The list of synonyms goes on.
I thought I had her pegged. She shuffled in each day dressed in sweatpants and shirts that barely spanned her ample belly. Her wispy, white hair shot in all directions with no particular style, and she didn't wear any jewelry or makeup. She seemed out of place in the group. Yet, she answered every question put to her with intelligence and insight. She spoke with eloquence and discernment. I was ashamed. I had assumed, because of her appearance, she would exhibit ignorance and apathy. I was so wrong.
How could I, who’ve been wounded by the assumptions of others, fall into this trap? Too easily, I’m afraid. Yet it frustrates me to no end when people judge me – about my work, beliefs, character, even thoughts – without any true knowledge of who I am. Isn’t that how prejudice begins? So often we come to wrong conclusions because of the way another person dresses, talks, or moves. We pass over people with delightful qualities, seeking those who fit our preconceived mold of acceptability. Only to discover the ones who looked good on the outside lack depth of character.
More recent translations word it differently, but I still prefer Proverbs 19:2 from the 1985 NIV Study Bible: “It is not good to have zeal without knowledge, nor to be hasty and miss the way.” This verse has yanked me back onto the right track many times over the years! In this context, it tells me I need to slow down, listen, ask questions. I need to go beyond the surface and get to know who people are on the inside. That’s what really counts.
Assumptions put others in a box of expectations. They keep us from seeing who they really are. They erect barriers between people. They predetermine our perceptions instead of providing true understanding and insight. Jesus calls us to view each person as a one of a kind creation, with multiple facets of wonder.
How many of us have been hurt when others have made hasty decisions about us because of our appearance, education, financial status, race, work, or belief system? If they had only taken the time to get to know me, we’ve thought.
And so, I determine anew, to approach others that way. Man may look on the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart. As a follower of Jesus Christ, I have access to His Spirit-gift to look beyond the surface, if I will ask for His eyes to see.