He was mad at me, convinced that I was attacking our church and its leadership. Although I did not once mention our church by name he was certain that the sermon illustrations I used were intended to call attention to the challenges our church was facing at the time. There were many points in the message that closely paralleled issues our church was confronted so it was natural to assume that I had crafted the message with the intention of emphasizing those problems.
His assumption was logical, reasonable, supported by his observations, and wrong.
I was part of a team of teachers who had been asked to each teach about one of the Kings of Israel or Judah. I requested one king, but was assigned a different one, so the lesson I taught was not one I had chosen.I had first outlined and taught on that king and the associated passage of scripture seven years earlier, at a different church, long before our current church’s problems had begun. Recognizing the potential that some might think I was attacking our church, I agonized and fretted and worked hard to stay true to the passage. I repeatedly edited and altered the message, taking out portions that I thought might be interpreted negatively.
In spite of my efforts, my friend reached the conclusion that I had selected the passage and crafted the sermon with our church in mind. It was several months before we talked face to face and I was able to correct his assumptions. When he heard the whole story his apology was genuine and sincere.
After we talked I reflected on how many times I had similarly and confidently reached a wrong conclusion about others, the occasions when I had misjudged others based on limited information.
I thought of patients I had written off as non-compliant, only to later learn that they had lost their jobs and their insurance. I remembered the many times I had wrongly thought my children were rude or disrespectful only to discover that I had misheard them. There is no shortage of examples of me confidently making quick yet erroneous assessments.
My friends, family and patients deserve better from me. It is my prayer that I will, over time, develop the habit of assuming the best in others, that I will be someone who gives others a chance to explain before I choose to condemn. I have a long way to go
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