Preposterous Assumptions – Introduction
Preposterous Assumptions…we all make them. When we do, what we’re really doing is judging others. And frequently, if we’re not careful, our judgemental expression takes the form of vile, nasty comments.
“Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity, nothing exceeds the criticisms made of the habits of the poor by the well housed, well warmed, and well fed.”
~ Herman Melville , Criminal Minds Episode
I originally had a totally different subject in mind for today’s quote. But, as is often the case, current events have inspired me to view it from a different angle. Today’s quote reminds us that there are those who are never at a loss to give advice, usually in the form of criticism. You know the type…the people who have all the advice in the world on how to raise children, but who have never had children of their own. All too often the well housed, well warmed, and well fed have no problem at all finding ways to criticize and judge those who are poor, or at least not as well off.
In their zeal to be superior, to have all the answers, and to tell others how they should live, they usually don’t have all the facts; they make preposterous assumptions; and they make very hurtful comments.
Let me share a story…
My daughter is married and has three boys under the age of 10. My daughter made the choice not long ago to quit her job in order to be a stay-at-home mom. A choice, by the way, that used to be seen as a good thing. It was a hard decision because she enjoyed working, enjoyed her job, was good at what she did, and was well liked by her employer and coworkers. Unfortunately, the cost of day care was more than she brought home each month. It simply didn’t make sense to continue working. Her husband works extremely hard to provide for their family. He’s in construction, which means there are times when income is scarce. They don’t have a lot of money, but they pay their bills, and their boys have a roof over their heads, and they are loved, clothed, and fed. Due to their income level, they qualify for WIC – a nutritional program providing supplemental foods, health care referral, and nutrition education to pregnant and post-partum women, and to infants and children up to age five. The maximum income for a family of five, the size of my daughter’s family, is $51,000 per year. The WIC program isn’t “food stamps.” It pays for specific nutritional foods like formula, baby cereal, bread, milk, eggs, vegetables, baby foods, peanut butter, etc. The program is designed to provide better nutrition to children in families that, due to lower incomes, might otherwise purchase cheaper, less nutritional foods.
When shopping with WIC vouchers, cashiers must ring items up in a certain way, which can make the check-out process longer than it would be otherwise. My daughter knows this and is careful to organize the items according to their corresponding coupons. This helps the cashier ring up the items consistent with the WIC requirements, and also helps to speed the check-out process so that people behind her in line aren’t held up any longer than necessary.
The other day, she was in the check-out line and had organized all of the items and coupons. The lady behind her was impatient, huffing and puffing, and muttering under her breath. After checking out, my daughter proceeded to her car and began buckling the boys into their car seats and loading up her groceries. The lady who had been behind her came out, and happened to be parked right next to my daughter. No longer muttering under her breath, the lady proceeded to complain to her mother, who had been waiting in the car, about my daughter, how long she took, holding up the line, and, if she would get a job like everyone else she wouldn’t take up other people’s time by having to check out with the vouchers. My daughter was crushed, and, as she got into the car, tears started streaming down her face.
This lady, a complete stranger, was making preposterous assumptions. She was judgemental, unkind, and unloving. Her attitude and her remarks were hurtful. Of course, I reminded my daughter that she is not responsible for the thoughts, words, or actions of others; she is only responsible for how she reacts to them. She will never see this lady again and she does not have to give the lady power over her happiness.
We’ve talked about judging others and minding our tongues before. When we’ve talked about judgement and minding our tongues before, it’s generally been in the context of personal interactions. This incident got me thinking about it in a whole different way.
We strive to understand how scripture applies in our lives today. This is a wonderful example. My daughter happened to relay this story through Facebook.
Reading the comments that her friends posted, the application of scripture in our lives today became obvious. Scripture doesn’t apply just in our day-to-day interactions. When we’re in a personal one-on-one interaction, our comments are pretty much between the two people involved. But with the advent of social media – even a personal comment between friends is now shared with 100’s, if not 1,000s of people. Our preposterous assumptions – our judgements – and our vile, nasty, unloving, unkind comments, and yes, our unChristian behavior is now out there for the world to see. And, the internet being what it is, they’re out there in cyber-space forever. And, when responding to an incident such as my daughter’s, sometimes the follow-up comments are as bad or worse than the original incident. For example – here are just a few of the comments that others made to my daughter’s post:
- …i hate those people
- …you know, i talk s**t back to people like that
- …people like that should be knocked out…I’m sure her handicapped mom is on assistance (the lady’s car had been parked in a disabled parking space) because we all know ;you can’t live off of disability or social security…
- …don’t mind stupid people
- …should have punched her in the throat with a shovel
- …people used to talk abut me, too…I just started taking longer to p**s them off
- …s***w her…she’s a rude b***h
- …f**k those a-holes
There were some kind, supportive comments, too, of course.
My cousin’s comment, though, was the best: judgement = more judgement. She hit the nail on the head. The people commenting about the lady’s judgement of my daughter we just as judgemental, just as mean-spirited, just as unkind – maybe even more so. They got downright rude and vulgar.
When it comes to social media, what used to be a private situation between two people, or even just a few people, now escalates to untold proportions. The anger, judgement, and hate feeds on itself. And, as it feeds, it gets bigger and bigger, flowing out to more and more and more people.
I don’t think we pay quite enough attention to the impact social media has. With it, personal, sometimes intimate details are shared to untold numbers of people. Our thoughts and our words can have an impact on so many, and we just don’t stop to realize it.
And it doesn’t stop with incidents like my daughter’s either. There are lot of blog and Facebook postings and comments on social issues such as the Affordable Care Act, Marriage Equality, and Politics in general.
Republicans slam Democrats…Democrats slam Republicans…Liberals slam Conservatives…Conservatives slam Liberals…and on, and, and on.
Here are just a few comments that have come through on postings I see from friends, many of whom happen to identify themselves as Christian:
- …idiot Libtards
- …didn’t vote for Obumma
- …impeach Obummer
- …you’re a fool…time will show how much of a fool
- …all devilcrats have mental issues
- …all republicans are racist losers
- …you are a moron
Many of these posts and comments show hundreds and even thousands of “Likes” and “Shares.” Social media has a lot of very positive attributes. Unfortunately, it also provides a mechanism for nasty, vile, and unloving comments to spread like wildfire.
For those who may not identify as Christian, a simple remedy would be to remember the “Golden Rule”, “do unto others.” The concept is not new, it’s been taught by parents to children for centuries. It’s part of many faith traditions.
For those who do identify as Christian, this is a perfect opportunity to see how scripture can apply in our lives today. Actually, “do unto others” is taken directly from scripture. Luke 6:31 reads, “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” And Matthew 7:12 says, “In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you…”
When we hear, or read a social media comment, that’s nasty, vile, or judgemental, do we respond in kind? Are we just as nasty, vile, or judgemental? There are countless other scriptures about judgement and controlling our tongues. I’d like to look at just one of them. Matthew 7:1-5 says, “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”
There’s no doubt the lady in my daughter’s story was behaving rudely and being hurtful. She was, as our quote says, making preposterous assumptions. And, like I said, we’ve all done it. We’ve all heard or even maybe made comments about others. Comments like:
- He’s not disabled, he’s just lazy…Really? How do you know? A lot of people have a “hidden” disability that limit their ability to work.
- He should just go on a diet…Perhaps. But do you know his medical condition? Are you his doctor?
- Why should she get a job when she can just keep having babies and collect welfare and food stamps…Are there some who take advantage of the system? Sure. But do you know what her situation is? I’ve actually heard that comment in regards to a lady using food stamps. The person making the comment had no idea that the woman in question does, in fact, have a full-time job. Unfortunately, her husband abandoned the family, doesn’t pay child support, and her income doesn’t come close to providing for her needs.
- She should just eat something…Again, perhaps. But do you know her situation? Does she suffer from depression? Does she have a disease like AIDS-related wasting syndrome or Lou Gherig’s disease that affects the ability to swallow and to absorb nutrients?
The list could go on and on. The point is, we don’t know. And even if we did, what purpose does it serve to be nasty, vile, malicious, and mean-spirited? None – other than to make ourselves feel superior.
Before making comments we would do well to remember Ephesians 4:29, “”Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” With social media playing so large a role in our lives today, it’s important to remember that Paul’s words to the Ephesians apply not only to our spoken word to those in a face-to-face situation. Paul’s words apply all the more to our printed comments because they have the potential of reaching, and positively or negatively impacting a far greater number of people. When we’re face-to-face, we might inadvertently let a comment slip out in the “heat of the moment.” But, with social media our comments aren’t inadvertent slips. We have the opportunity to catch ourselves; we can take a moment before clicking the “reply” button.
It’s also important for us to remember that, as followers of Christ, we are called to a high standard – to be more, to be better than we were before. Titus 3:2-7 reads, “To speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to His own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior,…”
And so it is, I invite you to be more, to be better than you were. When using social media, before posting, before clicking the “reply” or “comment” buttons, take a moment. Are you making preposterous assumptions? Are you speaking evil of someone; are you picking a fight? Are you giving in to your passions and emotions? Or, are your words gentle, courteous, and uplifting toward all people who might read them? Do your words convey the goodness, love, and kindness of God; and are they an example of Jesus living in your heart?
Even if we can’t remember all of the scripture chapters and verses, we would all, Christian and non-Christian alike, do well to actually practice the “Golden Rule.” Imagine the impact we could have if we all just started there – in every conversation, every comment, every interaction – whether in person or through social media, we do nothing more or less than to treat others the way we would like to be treated.
- Luke 6:31
- Matthew 7:12
- Matthew 7:1-5
- Ephesians 4:29
- Titus 3:2-7
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