I recently visited my college for the first time since graduating 20 years ago. It brought back a flood of memories, from the all-day drawing classes to graduating on the lawn and everything in between. One of my earliest college memories happened in one of the few classes I took in an auditorium. Everyone was required to take an introductory class to help us all get on the same page when it came to running a small business as a designer or artist. It was in that class I learned a dog’s food and care can be a tax deduction, provided the dog is proven to be your home’s security system. True story.
That class was also where I first heard the business definition of the word assume. Our instructor told us in business, we must never assume anything. Working for a friend or family member? Doesn’t matter. Use a contract, just like you would with a stranger. It’s because the word assume is really just an acronym for what it causes you to do: make an ASS out of U and ME.
Got it. Loud and clear.
While he shared a few anecdotes to prove why we should never make assumptions in business, over the years I’ve noticed the same is true in pretty much all aspects of life. Let me give you a few of my own examples to help explain.
Have you ever noticed someone driving down the middle of a two-lane road? I have. Plenty of times. Usually, when I see someone like that, I pass a certain judgement on him. (Right off the bat I figure he must be a he, right? Men always think they own the road… ;-)) See what I did there? I assumed something about the driver, and it didn’t stop with just one assumption. I might assume he’d been drinking, or texting, or performing any of a slew of other dangerous activities while driving.
And then I met a guy who works really hard laying pipeline for the gas lines that run all over our country. Before he did that, he fought in the Marines in Fallujah. Over dinner one night, he told my husband and I about the road-side bombs he encountered over there… and how to this day it’s hard for him to stay in his lane while driving down two-lane country roads like those around our home.
Easy weight loss
Here’s another one. You notice a coworker has been losing weight. Trying not to let your jealousy show too much, you comment, “Wow, you look really great! I wish I could lose this weight. How’d you do it?” She gives you a sad smile and responds, “I wasn’t trying.” After a few more minutes of conversation, you find out she’s undergone a series of medical tests and is scared at what the doctor’s might find.
ASS.U.ME. bites again.
One more. A group of parents are sitting around a table, meeting for the first time. They are all participating in a small group Bible study and this is the first session. The leader invites each couple to introduce themselves and talk about something God has been teaching them through the process of parenting. One mom of teenagers gets a bit teary as she shares, eventually closing with, “We’re just so grateful for all that God has brought us through. There were days when I honestly didn’t think we’d make it this far…”
Another participant chuckles, “Yeah, we all feel that way at some point, but we all survive.”
“I don’t think you understand,” the mom says. “Our daughter experienced some serious low points over the years… we really didn’t know if she’d make it…”
And do I even need to bring up the latest election and what we’ve all assumed about those who voted differently?
My father-in-law frequently talks about what he considers to be one of the worst sins: judging someone else. I’d like to think I’m pretty open-minded and loving, leaving judgement for the courts and God alone. And yet, I do it every day. It just masquerades as something we think is more acceptable. But when I assume something about you, I’m judging your motives, your feelings, and even your beliefs, which are all impossible for me to understand without being in your shoes—or having enough compassion to put myself there.
In the end, I guess my college professor was right. I really am just making an ASS out of U and ME.
[Going deeper] Is there someone you have been making assumptions about?