The Chaplain’s Corner: The Trouble with Assumptions

By way of an introduction to today’s topic, allow me to share a 100% true story. It’s a doozy!

When I was a rookie chaplain intern, greener than green, my Clinical Pastoral Education Supervisor thought it would be a good idea to open the pastoral care office door and release her six students into the main hospital for the purpose of visiting real patients (…something akin to throwing teeny tiny babies into a pool as an effective technique in the art of swimming).

I was assigned to the pre-surgery unit. Having never experienced surgery myself, I was nervous. It quickly became apparent that having had watched the soap opera “General Hospital” decades ago wasn’t going to help me in the newbie situation I was now in. So many beds side by side! My memories of “General Hospital” looked nothing like this!

It was then I looked down a corridor within the pre-surg unit and saw an elderly woman resting under a snowy white blanket. Her hair was thick with curly salt-and-pepper locks resting on a fluffy pillow. The outline of her body under the bedding was short. In a way, she reminded me of my Grandma Rodican. The familiarity helped me to somewhat relax.

To the right of her bed, two men in their thirties were talking to one another. Since she wasn’t a part of their conversation and was looking lost, I chose to visit her. After sharing introductions and a brief visit, I knew it was time to leave. My patient was tired, and I was still feeling nervous. But all in all, I got through it! Or so I thought. Before departing, I turned to the two men (both wearing burgundy scrubs) and commented on how kind it was of them to visit their co-worker during their lunch hour, a lovely gesture, indeed. In response to my compliment, the men looked at me with more than your average bewilderment. One man said rather aggressively, “We’re corrections officers!” “Oh,” I said sheepishly, looking away from both of them. It was only then that my rookie chaplain eyes spied the right hand of my grandma-like first-patient-of-all-time handcuffed to the rail of the hospital bed. To which I said, (and you can’t make this stuff up), “I’m not afraid, I’m not afraid.”

Yes. Assumptions are the topic of the day. It has become natural to speculate and make assumptions about anyone and/or anything. Assumptions can create havoc in personal and business relationships. Lines of communication become frazzled and ineffective when assumptions are anywhere in the picture. It is possible to quell the drama and confusion in our lives and grow stronger and more trusting relationships. So, how can “making assumptions” become less of an occurrence in our lives? 1) Observation is key. Let’s take a daily “assumptions” tally; 2) Ask questions; 3) Communicate our feelings; 4) Repeat from Step 1.

When was the last time someone made assumptions about you, or you made assumptions about someone else, based on looks, feelings, thoughts, age, manner of dress, occupation, or even predicted future behavior? I’ve been in both places and it doesn’t feel good. Usually, all of it is all wrong, anyway!

Here are what some well-known people have said about assumptions.

“Assumptions should never be the basis of any understanding.” Steven Redhead

“We make the assumption that everyone sees life the way we do.” Miguel Angel Ruiz

“Assumptions close doors. Intrigue opens them.” Sam Owen

“Stop assuming people can read your mind. Communicate yourself.” Akiroq Brost

“Never make assumptions about someone based on your past experiences with someone else.” Anonymous

Rodican Rose Bonn

Chaplain

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